The first thing that any filmmaker will do when crafting a film is create a world for the story to exist in. Although, it’s one thing to make a world or universe in a film, but it’s another to create an alternate perception of reality. The latter is what director Wes Anderson has tried to accomplish in almost all of his films. They have a sense of the real world, while at the same time maintaining an aesthetic that shields every aspect of its embodiment from external forces. Moonrise Kingdom, the Texas auteur’s seventh film to date, has a refined version of this aesthetic that Anderson has finely tuned to mastery.
Deviating from his usual castings and bringing in a much more diverse group of actors, Wes Anderson has created a quirky coming-of-age love story that is as absurd as it is charming. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman play Suzy and Sam, respectively, two preteen troublemakers who fall in love. Suzy is the daughter of two lawyers, played by a more prominent Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, who loves to look at the world through binoculars and read fantasy-magic books, and lives with her family on the far edge of a forested island. Sam is a young Khaki Scout who resides on a camp base at the other end of the island’s shore. After the two meet each other at a church play, they plan to escape from their respective abodes and form a new life together. With Bruce Willis as a lonely cop, mainstay Jason Schwartzman as a mustachioed scout leader, and appearances by Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel, as well as Bob Balaban as the charming narrator, this film has enough silent and laugh-out-loud moments to keep you fully entertained for its relatively short ninety-four minute run time. Behind its quirkiness and off-kilter tone lays very well-rounded characters, and a narrative that is both deep and straightforward.
All of these components play a part in creating Wes Anderson’s sense of a Neverland of sorts: this fantastical reality that is full of wonderment and sheltered from the dreadful truths of this planet. A feeling of frustration is overbearing throughout because you want these young lovers to be happy, but there is also an inherent fear for their friend’s and family’s well-being, who might not understand the two lovers as much as we’d like them to. There are moments that appeal to our sense of humor, and the film showers its audience with an overly warm, simplistic sense of serenity and happiness that is so prevalent in Anderson’s cinematic universe.
Ultimately, Moonrise Kingdom brings one back to their childhood, a time when life was an oyster and one’s to explore. This brilliant film evokes memories of first love, of dreams, and of the lessons of life. This is a world where even magic seems possible, but also carries a sense that it is possible for us to live there, and the truth is, we want to. Wes Anderson has perfectly captured the trials and tribulations of youth, in a reality that blinds us to all but of the best within our minds.
10 out of 10