Cult director Wes Anderson uses his idiosyncratic filmic style to suspend our disbelief with his beautiful aesthetics in this film about dysfunctional families and children that are far too wise for their years.
Moonrise Kingdom follows a pair of 12 year olds who have fallen in love and decide to run away together on their small island home of New Penzance. In the year 1965, in the calm before the storm, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), both of whom are outsiders with no friends, write letters to each other as they form their pact to run away together. Sam, a Khaki Scout, leaves his camp and sets off across the island to meet Suzy, who leaves her dysfunctional family to be with him. They follow an old Indian trail that leads them to Moonrise Kingdom. When their disappearance is discovered the Khaki Scout Troop Leader (Edward Norton) alongside the local Sheriff, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand), but not Sam’s foster parents as they decided he could not return to them as he was ‘emotionally disturbed’, set out to find the two missing 12 year olds.
This film portrays an innocent child’s perspective on love, for at 12 years old love is an overwhelming emotion that consumes Sam and Suzy, to the point where they are willing to do anything to stay together, even fight Sam’s fellow Khaki Scouts. The behaviour of the adolescents is similar to that of adults in the sense in which Sam smokes a pipe, the way in which all the children are particularly well articulated and the way in which Sam and Suzy talk about being in love, but also, the violent behaviour. However, we are constantly reminded that these adolescents are only 12 years old, for instance Sam confesses to Suzy that he might wet the bed at night. Thus, there seems to be no border between childhood and adulthood, but instead a naivety and innocence that occupies everyone in this quaint little town that seems to be cut off from the rest of the world.
The idea of the man-child is a theme that runs consistently throughout Anderson’s films, however in Moonrise Kingdom it is also reversed as the children act much older than their age. The adults’ behaviour, on the other hand, is juvenile to the extent in which they cannot organise themselves or take responsibility for their children. The brewing storm suggests that there is little happiness in these dysfunctional families. Walt and Laura Bishop address each other as ‘counsellor’ and talk their law cases over in bed, where they sleep in separated twin beds. Laura is having an affair with Captain Sharp and seems to be violent towards her husband, although we never see any abuse, but when Walt ends up with a black eye Laura’s explanation is simply that he fell into a ditch. Thus, the film portrays the glum reality of a dysfunctional family and contrasts this to the innocent love between the two 12 year olds. This could be seen to signify the end to America’s age of innocence, as the ‘60’s is in full swing.
However, it is this idea of overwhelming love that is prevalent in the film. This eccentric film with eccentric families shows a community that is split apart and brought back together again. This film with its hint of humour portrays a tragic sense of life as we learn that it is normal to feel trapped and alone.
Moonrise Kingdom is a fantastically made film that is uniquely strange and has a brilliantly orchestrated accompanying soundtrack. Moonrise Kingdom is definitely worth watching!
Written by Shirley Welton who blogs at Beyond The Edges of The Frame