On a remote island in 1965, a pair of pre-teens fall in love and run away together, sending the small community into a panic as a storm approaches.
Wes Anderson’s films are incredibly distinctive both visually and in their eccentric ways of telling stories, and Moonrise Kingdom is no exception. The film opens with the camera panning through a large New England home, allowing the audience to get an idea of the people that inhabit it, while creating the feel of a gazing into a dollhouse. The narrator (Bob Balabas) then sets the scene, giving the island as a whole, and the three groups that inhabit it, the feel of a fishbowl and the audience are peering inside.
The stars of the film are the two young lovers; Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward). These are two young people whose blossoming feelings for one another are like nothing they have felt before. They are at once easy and awkward in one another’s company, and the two young actors capture this juxtaposition easily on screen.
The adults are the messed up ones; Frances McDormand plays a woman who communicates with her children and husband through a megaphone, and is having an affair with the only police officer on the island, played by Bruce Willis. McDormand has long since established herself as the queen of quirky and she captures the essence of a lost yet sensitive woman. Bruce Willis steps away from the action roles that we know and love him for and plays Captain Sharp as a gentle soul who has lost his way in life. Bill Murray gives a fantastic performance as Walt, the father of one of the runaways who is as lost as his wife, and takes his frustration out on unsuspecting trees. Tilda Swinton reminds us of her talent for comedy as a woman named Social Services, and Harvey Keitel turns up sporting a fantastic moustache and shorts.
Edward Norton is the character that straddles both the innocent wonder of childhood and the responsibilities of adulthood. Through his performance as Scout Master Ward, Norton identifies with the struggle these children are going through, but recognises that running away is not the solution to their problems. Jason Schwartzman captures a little of his spacey and scattered character from Bored to Death – Jonathan Ames – as Cousin Ben, and allows the children to realise their dream… as best he can.
Wes Anderson has created a look at first love in a beautiful and gentle film. The film is free and soulful, but examines the chaos of first love and the journey from childhood to adulthood. The film is set on the cusp of change in America, and this change is reflected through its characters. There are touches of last year’s Submarine about Moonrise Kingdom, but the film is firmly rooted in its own world, and dances to it’s own tune… Mainly that of Benjamin Britten.
Moonrise Kingdom is chaotic – especially the final act – funny and heart warming, and reminds audiences of that first flush of love, where the two involved create their own world together. The film is a gentle opener for Cannes, but has a similar feel of wonder and otherworldliness to last year’s opener; Midnight in Paris. In all, Moonrise Kingdom is innocent yet rampaging, filled with the eccentric charm that makes Wes Anderson films wonderful and feels closer to The Royal Tenenbaums than The Darjeeling Limited – this film is about coming of age, finding your place in life and creating bonds, rather than severing them. The film examines the idea of love and security through the eyes of two young people who fail to understand the chaos they cause in their perceived selfishness.