There is something wonderful and exciting about the world that Wes Anderson lives in. It is a world full of khaki/corduroy-coated characters who live in ornate and detailed blueprints of homes, compounds or submarines set in a madras-filled nostalgia era of somewhere in between 1960 and 1980. The adults are always portrayed as slightly juvenile while the children are humorously serious and grown-up for their age. Moonrise Kingdom follows the Anderson tradition and delivers in spades.
Moonrise Kingdom is the Romeo and Juliet-story of “Khaki Scout” Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, taking place on the fictional New England Island “New Penzance” in 1965. Sam is an orphan who is constantly moved from foster homes and doesn’t get along with others. Similarly, Suzy is misunderstood by her family and classmates and often gets into fights at school. We learn that the two become pen pals and plan to run away together, relying on Sam’s Khaki Scout intuition and training. Though the film is focused on the two lovesick children, it certainly has a great ensemble cast of characters too. Seeing the community of the island at work is a joy, with Suzy’s lawyer parents Walt and Laura Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Khaki Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton.) Sam is eventually determined to be unsuitable for foster care by Social Services (Tilda Swinton, who is credited merely as Social Services) and must be sent to a juvenile refuge. This only bolsters Sam and Suzy’s quest to be free, as they are on the run from parents, Social Services and a whole pack of rabid Khaki Scouts that are armed to the teeth.
I can’t stress enough how much I enjoyed this film. I love the way that Wes Anderson can create fictional locales like New Penzance that beg to be explored. The film’s semi-narrator and fourth wall-breaker Bob Balaban provides a unique break of pace for the film by giving the audience background information on the island and actually interacting with the story at one point. The serious nature that the characters take to their duty as Khaki Scouts is fantastic. Edward Norton commands a strict regimen with a troop of dedicated boys that feel more like polished tin soldiers who occasionally disobey orders for what they see as the greater good. Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play the star-crossed-lovers Sam and Suzy. Gilman plays the very particular and anal nature of Wes Anderson protagonists very well; Hayward leaves a little to be desired, but a well-crafted story saves her from any major faults. Similar to that is how a viewer roots for 12-year-olds in love running off into the sunset; an unrealistic outcome that somehow seems more plausible in this world. The highlight of the film for me is the cameo by Anderson favorite Jason Schwartzman, who most certainly would’ve played Sam Shakusky if the film was made 20 years ago. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom is a great Wes Anderson film that can be enjoyed by fans and wider audiences alike.
Final Grade: A