It is always refreshing to watch a non-blockbuster film during a summer movie season full of big budgeted sequels and comic book flicks. Last year, “The Tree of Life” was a shining star during summer, and this year, “Moonrise Kingdom” is the film to see.
The Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Wes Anderson (“The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” “Rushmore”) returns with a movie that I dare to call his best. “Moonrise Kingdom” is sweet, funny, and thoroughly original.
The year is 1965 and the setting is an island off the coast of New England. “Moonrise Kingdom” tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love and run away together into the wilderness. Both kids are troubled souls who find solace in each other’s company.
The boy’s name is Sam (Jared Gilman), an orphan who considers his Khaki Scout troop family. The girl is Suzy (Kara Hayward), a voracious reader who does not fit in with her own family. Her lackadaisical father is played by Bill Murray. Frances McDormand stars as Suzy’s controlling mother.
Both kids are newcomers but they can go toe-to-toe with their experienced co-stars. My favorite scene in the movie is a tender moment between McDormand and Hayward. When the mom asks Suzy why she wants to run away, the little girl simply answers, “We’re in love, we just want to be together.”
“Moonrise Kingdom” could have been a predictable melodrama at the hands of a less-gifted director. But Wes Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola devote ample time to develop characters and enhance the quirky mood of the movie resulting in a film that’s part love story and war drama with a dose of disaster film thrown in for good measure.
When Suzy and Sam run away, the peaceful island community is turned upside down. Hot on their trail is Bruce Willis as the local sheriff, Edward Norton as a Khaki Scout troop leader, and Tilda Swinton who is simply called Social Services.
Even the narrator is put into good use in “Moonrise Kingdom.” Bob Balaban (“The Good Wife,” “For Your Consideration”) plays the Narrator and he’s not only heard but also seen and even plays a major part in the hunt for Suzy and Sam.
The production aspects of the movie are commendable. From the cinematography by Robert Yeoman to the art direction by Gerald Sullivan, the film’s attention to detail is superb aided by Set Decorator Kris Moran and Costume Designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone.
Told like a fairy tale, “Moonrise Kingdom” is full of heroes, villains, and love ever after. We can all learn a lesson or two about love from Suzy and Sam, and noisy blockbuster directors can discover the art of filmmaking from Anderson. This is the auteur’s creative and surreal kingdom that I am always happy to visit.
"Moonrise Kingdom" is the first feature film of 2012 to receive a perfect kisses!
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