Endearing, adorable, compassionate, and poetic, Moonrise Kingdom is surely one of the purest and sweetest love stories in history, infused with the charming whims and caprices that could not belong to anyone but Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox).
At the center of the film is a tempestuous romance between Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), who conspire to run away together just days before a hurricane is scheduled to hit the New England island of New Penzance. The young lovers are quirky and irresistible: Sam with his peculiar resourcefulness, Suzy with her beguiling pre-Lolita sexuality. Their aching connection is simultaneously utopian, steadfast, and mature beyond their years.
Beyond the delightful newcomers, Kingdom is abuzz – overstuffed – with star power: Edward Norton as the responsible Camp Master Scout, Bruce Willis as the caring Captain Sharp; Bill Murray as the axe-wielding Walt; Frances McDormand as the parentally-concerned Laura; Tilda Swinton as the irascible Social Services. Even Harvey Keitel and Jason Schwartzman make late-stage appearances with little to offer the narrative. Yet none oversteps the bounds of their characters: they are mellow, eccentric, and perform small miracles by not reaching for large ones.
The orderly structure and dreamlike atmosphere is impeccably orchestrated. The Super 16mm cinematography, the yellow Khaki Scout tents, the immaculate costuming and score – all coalesce into a film with tactile depth and feeling. Against all odds, Kingdom’s formality supports, rather than derails, its nostalgia and lyricism. Anderson shows genuine affection for the world he’s so lovingly crafted.
The film has been unfairly described as a miniature under glass, “as a diorama created by a brilliant, obsessive-compulsive child.” This hyperrealism is not pretentious or insincere. Anderson is captivated by a paradoxical, tragicomic collision between children who want to grow up too quickly, and adults who long for the simplicity of youth.
Literate and fancifully told, Moonrise Kingdom paints an elegant portrait of an idyllic 1965 summer with breathtaking detail. In his seventh film, Anderson is at his rapturous, idiosyncratic best. Within its oddball tableaux, his gaze gets richer and more revealing. The mixture of deadpan, slapstick, and melancholia is beautifully coordinated, and casts a magical spell. It’s Anderson nirvana.