I’ve seen a couple of Anderson films, and generally really liked them, but I can understand why some people really don’t. Anderson’s world is very stylised, with central characters who epitomise the “misunderstood, loner, outsider, genius” to such a degree that, if you assume Anderson is claiming any kind of autobiography, would be arrogance and egotism of an unbearable degree. If you don’t take this position but instead take the more generous position that he is playing a bit of wish-fulfilment for outsiders everywhere, they are much more charming – particularly for those who have been, or felt themselves to be, outsiders themselves. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception, here the two runaway children at the centre of the story being the main outsiders though many of the adults seem to have been frustrated outsiders also.
The action is set on a New England island around the 1960’s just as a storm is about to hit. Sam (Jared Gilman) runs away from scout camp, where he has been bullied, and meets up with Suzy (Kara Hayward) whose parents are on the verge of splitting up, and together they run away into the forest where Sam intends to put his scouting skills to use in evading the adults when they discover that the children have run away. The scoutmaster, Ward (Ed Norton) raises the alert first and police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) tracks round the island alerting residents to look out for Sam. In the process of doing this, we discover Sharp is having an affair with Suzy’s mother Laura (Frances McDormand) and it’s while he’s waiting for her that Suzy’s disappearance is discovered – which is a relief for Sharp as Suzy’s father Walt (Bill Murray) was just questioning his presence outside their house. Sharp arranges for a search of the island and Scoutmaster Ward recruits his troop into a search party. The chase is on.
I took a little time to warm to Sam although, given the way everyone else initially reacts to him, I suspect that this is also how we’re supposed to find him. Suzy reminds me of Chloe Moretz in Kick-Ass crossed with Christina Ricci in The Addams Family – the capacity for unnervingly adult seriousness combined with psychotic violence. The supporting cast, including a cameo from regular Anderson collaborator Jason Schwartzman, as well as Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel, are easily up to the task; none of them are asked to stretch themselves but it requires a certain ability and presence to create this kind of world without seeming forced.
This movie is charming and easily likeable but its general ‘niceness’ and life-affirming message that most people generally mean well might rub some people up the wrong way – it’s not exactly grittily realistic. There is a kind of sexless “Blue Lagoon” innocent first love theme that you will either accept on its own terms or, I suspect, just not care about at all. In addition, while I had no problem with one of the characters ‘stepping through the fourth wall’ to add narration, there are a couple of scenes of cartoon-comic crassness that completely break the illusion of reality and distanced me from the film and, having lost my engagement, it took a little while to get back in.
So, not a life-changing movie but a pleaant way to spend a couple of hours.