Wednesday, 29 August 2012


Universal Pictures
Now Showing

With nods to Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and The Tempest, but in very much his own distinct style, Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom tells the tale of two young lovers, Sam and Suzy (newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, respectively), and a violent storm headed for a little New England isle in the summer of 1965.

Sam and Suzy aren't exactly star crossed lovers, but as “troubled children” each 12-year-old recognises in the other a kindred spirit when they first meet – Sam in his Khaki Scouts uniform; Suzy dressed as a raven for an amateur production – in the summer of 1964. One year later, after a series of written correspondences, the pair meet again and run away together.

Given that they are on a small island, New Penzance, Sam and Suzy know that they aren't really going to escape. They're not so much literally running away but metaphorically: one last hurrah before puberty, their loss of innocence, and the demands of the adult world which requires one to put away childish things, such as their shared interests in fantasy books and French pop music (Suzy bringing along her little brother's record player).

The adults in their lives – Suzy's lawyer parents (Frances McDormand, and Anderson regular, Bill Murray); the island constabulary, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis); Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton); and Social Services (Tilda Swinton), for Sam is an orphan and a ward of the State – react to this turns of events as though two inmates from a maximum security prison had escaped.

An over-reaction to two kids alone in the “wild”, or are they just responding to the sudden introduction of excitement that's lacking in their own tiny lives on this tiny isle?

Sam's fellow Khaki Scouts, not particularly fond of the runaway to begin with, see the boy's flight as both a betrayal of their Troop, and as an opportunity to test their tracking and hunting skills (Lord of the Flies is more these boys' reading style).

Wes Anderson is very much about style, one which is often labeled 'quirky' and 'whimsical', and sometimes intended as a backhanded compliment at best. But his previous film, the fantastic stop-animation, Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), is (for shame) the only one of his previous six films I've seen – and I adored it.

And Moonrise Kingdom – with its period details, hyper-real colours and production design, and flights of fancy – could just as easily have worked as animation. But Anderson, and co-writer Roman Coppola (yes, brother to Sofia, and son to Francis Ford), have imbued the artifice with such warmth and heart that you wouldn't begrudge the actors – old pros (there's also Harvey Keitel as a Scoutmaster, and Bob Balaban, dressed like a Christmas elf, as the narrator-of-sorts) and newcomers alike – their fun.

Don't deny yourself, either, this wonderful little gem of a film.

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