moonrise

Dir. Wes Anderson
(2012, PG-13, 94 minutes)

Moonrise Kingdom is odd even by Wes Anderson standards. His visual compositions are eerily symmetrical. His shots are straight on, rarely – perhaps never – angled. His camera moves on a horizontal or vertical axis at all times. And like his visual approach his characters and their dialogue are mannered – dry and controlled, yet whimsical. It’s not an easy film to digest, but that’s not surprising for Anderson. I remember in 2007 I had to watch The Darjeeling Limited twice: the first time I was nonplussed, but the second time I was unexpectedly touched.

It took a while, but Moonrise finally won me over, mostly because of the touch of melancholy Anderson brings to the material, which adds depth to his otherwise cool and detached style. It’s the story of a pair of young sweethearts: orphaned Sam (Jared Gilmore), a dutiful Khaki Scout with wilderness training, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), the oldest of four whose parents think she’s troubled. Both kids are considered emotionally damaged by those around them; they’re outcasts, and one day they fulfill their plan to run away together.

They live on the island of New Penzance, a fictional New England town accessible by ferry and with no paved roads. It’s a bit like the Bathtub from Beasts of the Southern Wild in that its small, isolated locale exists out of time mostly in the imagination, almost like it was dreamed up by the people who live there. We learn about their lives as they search for the missing children, and I was moved by the brief glimpses of marital discord between Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the loneliness of the local sheriff (Bruce Willis), and the dedication of the scout leader (Edward Norton).

A storm approaches, literally and metaphorically, and as the island is ravaged the film builds up surprising suspense, which in addition to its tender emotionality keeps it from getting lost in hipster irony. All the characters are a bit lost and damaged, and the search for Sam and Suzy allows them all to get a little bit found.

 

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