When I was in eighth grade, on an overnight trip to Taos, New Mexico, our gifted and talented class rebelled against the authority figures we had spent our entire lives obeying. Late at night, when everyone was supposed to be asleep with boys on one side of the motel and girls on the other, we threw a coed party. At that clandestine event, we jumped on the bed, ate a superhuman amount of Twizzlers, watched music videos, and at one point Bo* put on a girl's swimsuit over his clothes. Oh, and Amanda* got her ears pierced in the bathroom. It was probably the last time we would be around each other before we realized that drugs, alcohol and sex existed. It was sweet and innocent and not the worst thing we could have done to misbehave. Of course we still got in huge trouble, but we still all remember it with pride.
Moonrise Kingdom is so enchanting, hilarious and likable, it brought all those memories rushing to the surface. I normally end up liking Wes Anderson's films, but I love this one.
This film is firing on all six Anderson cylinders, and it feels like everything he's tried in other films are in perfect harmony. It has the usual rich look of all the Wes Anderson - Robert Yeoman collaborations, but this time even more impossibly cute, as it is set on a small island in Rhode Island with lighthouses and churches circa 1965. The pleasantly antique look of the film feeds the subject matter perfectly. It's the impossibly adorable mini-Romeo and Juliet story of Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Both are misunderstood pre-teens that have a tendency towards small acts of (eventually) forgivable violence. Sam has just abandoned his position as Khaki Scout and run away from camp, so his scout leader (Edward Norton) leads a search to find him, which includes the sheriff (Bruce Willis), and eventually the entire Bishop family. It's just a guy-and-gal-on-the-lam story, but with a coonskin cap and French pop music.
Anderson's movies are famous for their cuter-than-you way of looking and talking, but since this film stars mostly children, it feels appropriate and charming right away. It doesn't talk down to anyone who doesn't sip lattes with cruelty-free soy from a recycled corn husk while wearing a hemp turtleneck and overpriced vegan sunglasses that they had to put on a credit card. In fact, it reeks of sincerity and realism, because the sweet, innocuous moments between Sam and Suzy are balanced with ones of extreme violence from the rest of the kids--just like real life.
Adding to the smart-but-not-showy element is the music included in the film. Suzy insists on carrying around her brother's record player, which he greatly misses because they use it to play Benjamin Britten albums that discuss the genius of the British composer step-by-step with ridiculously dry narrative. During the film I appreciated the soundtrack without knowing that the oohs and aahs sung by children are pieces that Britten loved writing, which seems exactly like how Anderson felt about his film. It has elements from every movie genre, done mostly by kids, or fantastic adults who have rarely been better in their careers.
Moonrise Kingdom is as much fun as saying "Shakusky." Try it, you'll like it.
*Names have been changed to protect the innocent.