For Your Consideration: Moonrise Kingdom

Big, giant explosions have become an American summertime tradition. The spectacle of seeing superheroes turning billions of invading aliens into jelly, Johnny All-America blowing up the enemies of freedom, Will Smith, and giant robot bathroom humor have become commonplace for our theaters once June rolls around. While these movies make enough money to feed a tiny country, a few films slip through the cracks and almost go unnoticed. So, between your trips to claustrophobically tight movie theaters to see your Avengers and your Batmans, take a breather from choking on your adrenaline to see Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom.

Anderson, director of The Royal Tenenbaums, takes us back to the sixties, more specifically the remote New England island of New  Penzance on the eve of the island’s worst storm. The whimsical tale centers around two young lovers, ex-Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop, who decide to run away and set up a new life together. Of course a dysfunctional  band of parents, cops, and scoutmasters (played by a not too shabby line-up including Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Bill Murray, and Edward Norton) pursue the duo to bring them back home.

With such an amazing cast, it comes as a wonderful surprise that the two who steal the show are the newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. Which is saying something about the duo’s screen power since Anderson usually brings out the unusual best with his actors.They have to play against some A-list heavy hitters and they never seem to falter.  Playing Sam and Suzy, respectively, the two bring a wonderful chemistry and wonderful nuance to the roles. They bring a simple, naive, and pure side which is a wonderful contrast to the adults’ cynicism and defeatism. Of course they act out with anger and confusion as they are treated as the odd ones who don’t want to subscribe to the grown-up world. Rather, they get lost in a world of creativity and imagination. Gilman and Hayward are able to embody that childhood chaos, the one that rages against the stale, cold system of adulthood. Not to mention they are downright heart warming together.

The children may be the film’s highlight but the adult cast is still their usual best. Murray and McDormand play the detached Walt and Laura Bishop, parents to Suzy. The two serve as a crushed mirror image of what Sam and Suzy are currently. Unlike the kids, who are full of energy and creativity, Murray and McDormand play the roles distant and cold. Their roles don’t lose their gallows, sad humor. They speak through megaphones instead of to each other and instead of real conversations they speak in case studies and legal terms. Bruce Willis almost plays an older parody of his usual yippie-kai-yay action roles. As Captain Sharp, Willis is bored, lonely, and confused as to what to do when the police have a job to do for once. Rounding out the larger cast is a freakishly nice and down-to-Earth Edward Norton as Sam’s Scoutmaster, Randy Ward, and the always wonderful Tilda Swinton as Social Services.

What is so wonderful about Moonrise Kingdom is that Anderson brings out how well the two groups contrast one another. The adults all have roles in law and order. They are lawyers, government, and cops living in a bland world of rules. The children are chaotic creativity– they are always reading, painting, creating, scheming or acting downright crazy. Anderson’s almost surreal filming style brings a storybook feel to the movie that highlights even further the children’s more freewheeling, happy lives. It feels like a world where dreams can come alive and that two kids can run off together to form a new life but in it exists a distinctive other world, the always disappointing “real world”, that sluggishly tries to smother the fun out of it. Unlike Anderson’s previous work that focuses on the already-broken adults, he shifts the world to the free world of children that is constantly trying to be broken by a group that thinks they know better.

If you need a break from 3-D monsters, the 50th Ice Age movie, or just want to see a strong contender for Movie of the Year, here it is. Moonrise Kingdom is a heartwarming and fun film filled with Anderson’s odd, creative energy.

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