Moonrise Kingdom is yet another reminder of what an unlimited source of madness Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s minds are, as well as a solid indication of how incredibly clever and talented this one-of-a-kind filmmaker is. Once again surreal, stylish, free and following only the writer-director’s rules and no one else’s, Moonrise Kingdom creates its own world for incredibly mature kids and childish grown-ups, puts them together in a fairytale playground and gives them real problems, insecurities and family dysfunctions to play with. He adds colours, mad lines and a killer soundtrack and offers his audience his latest blend of misery, pain, romance and optimism, like he only can.
Set in 1965, the film tells the story of two kids, Suzy and Sam, who run away together and camp on the beachof Moonrise Kingdom, listening to Françoise Hardy, sporting cool accessories and reading books such as Disappearance of the 6th Grade. Sad dreamer Suzy (Kara Hayward) lives in a lighthouse with her three annoying little brothers, her cynical mother (Frances McDormand) and heart-broken father (Bill Murray). Sam (Jared Gilman) is a lonely orphan scout who falls in love with the kind of bird that Suzy is and works for an entire year towards escaping the camp’s bullies and leader (Edward Norton) and taking his girlfriend away from her dysfunctional family in order for them to start a much better life alone. The only problem is that the town, parents, camp bullies, Capt. Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Social Services (Tilda Swinton) are not willing to just let them be and they soon take action to ensure the two kids are brought back where they belong.
The events take place in a dollhouse-like island where no one else seems to live but the people involved in the story. The colours, outfits, accessories, settings and names of everything in Moonrise Kingdom are magical, dreamy and idealistic. But the actual characters are very much out of the real world, things that happen to them trouble them just as much, they feel the same, if not more pain when someone rejects them and they need to escape the dollhouse just as much as if it were a real home or camp. There is sadness in their eyes, but humour in their overall existence, cynicism in their words, but romance in what they mean to say.
Adolescence is at the same time sensitive and tough, eccentric and subtle, and the film does a brilliant job striking this difficult balance. The actors are just as much compelling as they are entertaining, believable but also dry and hilarious. And Anderson’s and Coppola’s script is once again filled with strange, unexpected, funny and absurd lines that the story’s colourful characters exclaim in all these crazy situations in which they find themselves. A romanticized real world, an idealized first love — all as always touched by the outlaw-getaway spirit, the psychedelic music, the harmless madness and that half European-half American atmosphere that makes Wes Anderson’s direction the perfect medium.
Moonrise Kingdom has not for me reached Bottle Rocket – my absolute favourite Wes Anderson film – or The Darjeeling Limited, but it has definitely succeeded in telling and showing its audience something very new and different, in a highly masterful, clever and attractive way. This is one of the most honest coming-of-age stories I have seen in a while, but it’s told in a magical way and dressed in a fantastical exterior, getting rid of the drama and adding to the overall optimism and hope. Extremely funny and always quirky, with brilliant performances and presented with a very creative sense of style, Moonrise Kingdom is sorrow and joy, adolescence and adulthood, sweet and sour, reality and fantasy, put together.