It's unusually rare that a film such as 'Moonrise Kingdom' comes along. It assembles a stellar cast, yet the two leads are unknown teens. It has a completely fantastic story, set in a cartoon-like world, yet the people are tantalisingly believable. It's a tale focused on young love, yet contains some of the driest humour to hit screens in years. It's a film full of contradictions - and it's completely and utterly delightful/irresistible.
It's 1965 on the island of New Penzance. On one part of the island, Sam Shakusky is being shunned and ignored at Khaiki Scout Camp. Elsewhere, Suzy Bishop is living with her utterly dysfunctional family and hating every minute of it. The two are connected through letters, after becoming penpals through a chance encounter, and the two prepubescent lovers decide to run away together. The entire island sets out in search of them, but as the net closes in on the pain, a much larger enemy looms.
It's a stunning return to the screen by Wes Anderson. It's been three years since 'Fantastic Mr Fox' hit cinemas, and although this is a very different kettle of fish, it certainly carries many of the same traits. It has a childlike quality to it, with bright red houses, exemplary camp sites, and lush hideaways. Every shot captured in this film only adds to its quirkiness, from the opening sequence tracking through rooms of the Bishop household to the revealing final shot.
'Moonrise Kingdom' also features an assembly of some of the finest actors around - Bill Murray as Suzy's kooky father is one of his best performances in years, matched perfectly with Frances McDormand's overbearing mother, whose use of a megaphone and knowledge of law keeps her family in line. Additionally Bruce Willis plays the lost and lonely Captain Sharp, and Jason Schwartzman appears towards the end of the film as an intolerable cousin. Edward Norton as the scout troop leader is genius - his rigid retentiveness is played perfectly. Everyone's story is believable and even the smaller roles have substantial depth. Yet without a doubt it's the young duo, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, that are the film's gems, cast to perfection here; their awkward budding romance really makes this film what it is. Gilman is brilliant as the rational oddball, and Hayward brings a dark fury to her character.
Every shot captured in this film only adds to its quirkiness.
The most outstanding feature of this film is the source of its offbeat humour. It finds ordinary situations and turns them into the absurd. The adults spend the entire film acting like children, while the two lovebirds, though out of their depth, are far more mature than their years. This role reversal allows for some smart, intelligent humour to be played out by the exceptional cast.
'Moonrise Kingdom' is enjoyable on so many levels. It has the humour, the pathos, and the visuals that many movies aim for yet end up falling short with. It takes the audience on a journey around New Penzance with a bunch of fascinating people. But in the end, it's about an unconventional romance that perseveres through great trials - and you'll be glad it does. It's the sort of film that will instantly become a cult classic - so I recommend jumping on the bandwagon early.