Has writer/director Wes Anderson grown more wesandersony over the years, or am I mistaken? Between Moonrise Kingdom and Fantastic Mr. Fox, I feel like his world is bearing less and less relation to our own.
Which is just fine. I happen to love his precise, colorful compositions and oblique dialogue, which Moonrise Kingdom sows in abundance. Only a few props, songs and movie references (Shawshank fans are in for a treat) keep this storybook fable of 12-year-old runaways connected to anything like the Earth I know and live on.
The story takes place on the highly-fictional New Penzance Island in 1965. Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a troubled orphan who immediately recognizes another lost soul in Suzy (Kara Hayward), a girl who lives on the other side of the island. They strike up a correspondence, plotting to run off together. Inspired by the child-actor films of Truffaut, Anderson and co-writer Roman Coppola give them inner lives worthy of adults.
The adults in the film don’t fare as well. Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Harvey Keitel all play little more than caricatures. Bruce Willis, as a lonely island sheriff, and Bill Murray, as Suzy’s sad, cuckolded father have a bit more development, but their main plot function is to constantly glaze the tale in melancholy.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is the name the young lovers give to a cove where they share a night, unburdened of the dreary island folk. A hurricane comes, and this cove is erased from the map the next day. Like childhood, it is a place that can never be returned to.
UPDATE 2015: Having watched back through the entire Wes Anderson oeuvre, up to and including Grand Budapest, this film has only grown on me. The beauty of the central metaphor matches beauty and precision of the filmmaking. It’s my favorite Wes Anderson film yet.