Wes Anderson's new film "Moonrise Kingdom" brings you a story of two preteens who fall in love and promise to run away together. Check out if Anderson's film is all you ever imagined.
Wes Anderson’s penchant for adolescent fantasy and characters out of step with reality finds a perfect home in “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Set on a fictional New England island, “Moonrise Kingdom” tells a fantastic tale of two preteens that fall in love and promise to run away together. In interviews, Anderson has said the film is like “a memory of a fantasy,” and as the set pieces come and go throughout the 93-minute runtime it feels like for the first time an adolescent fantasy has been faithfully captured on screen. “Moonrise Kingdom” is like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life. Gorgeous set pieces, idyllic Americana setting, and the duality of a community that appears to be equally populated with both adolescent youths and disconnected adults. But what makes the movie so effective, and so engaging, is that while these characters lack grounding in the real world they manage to retain their humanity. Both the adults and children, with all their idiosyncrasies and emotional failings, are presented in a carefully detailed and fantastically imagined portrait of 1960s New England.
Anderson relies on a few of his staple players, most notably Bill Murray (“The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou,” “The Royal Tenenbaums”), and Jason Schwartzman (“The Darjeeling Limited,” “Rushmore”), and masterfully mixes in the powerful talents of Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and Harvey Keitel in a surprisingly fun and refreshing cameo role. Young actors Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman steal the show however, it’s immediately apparent that their portrayal of Suzy and Sam is strongly influenced by their own youth and talent as it is by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola’s script.
And much like the rest of Anderson’s oeuvre, “Moonrise Kingdom” uses a clever blend of music and voice-over narration to craft the aural portrait of the fictional island of New Penzance. The sound editing helps reinforce the adolescent fantasy narrative; not only is there a narrator (Bob Balaban) who speaks directly to the audience, but the records Suzy listens to on her brother’s portable record player also have narration. The introductory sequence of the film is underscored by “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,” Op. 34, by Benjamin Britten. As each variation is played, a young narrator describes the changes of the orchestral ensemble, highlighting the use of instruments and changes to the theme in each variation. Each orchestral section is introduced in each subsequent variation, until all of the orchestral units play together in a fugue. The work is the perfect metaphor for the film’s ensemble cast; much like the recording, the film introduces New Penzance island’s units (the Khaki Scouts, the Bishops, the Island Police) and brings them all together in a frenzied storm of interplaying action and emotion in its climax.
Benjamin Britten has a well-documented history with musical education and youth outreach, which makes his music a perfect companion for the film. His Op. 34 (described above) was commissioned for an educational documentary in 1946. And the moment when Suzy and Sam meet, centers around the town’s production of “Noye’s Fludde” (Noah’s Flood), Op. 59, which Britten wrote specifically to be performed in a church but not a theater, and to be a cast of amateurs. A perfect work for a cast of quirky, ineffectual parents and adolescents living in idyllic America. Also a timely piece, as it was written within a decade of the film’s 1965 setting.
Ultimately, if you’re a fan of Wes Anderson’s previous works you are guaranteed to enjoy this new vision and remembrance of American youth. And if you’re not, this film is a perfect entry point into his clever, precious, and yet surprisingly genuine window into American memory and story telling. “Moonrise Kingdom” is heartfelt, funny, sincere, and full of joy. It’s concision and attention to detail makes every minute meaningful, and leaves you with a sense of whimsy and charm that is a welcome addition to this year’s films.