Moonrise Kingdom is the first Wes Anderson film that I’ve seen, and from what I’ve been told of his body of work, it’s a good place to start – It has the sweetness and visual style that he’s known for as a director. And based on my reaction to this, I’d probably love the rest of his work.
It tells, quite simply, a love story, about two pre-teens, Sam (Jared Gilman, who is endearing and sweet and does well with the idea that all of the young characters are wise far beyond their years) and Suzy (Kara Hayward – who is, in brief, very tall, and very talented) who run away together on the fictional island of New Penzance before a storm hits the island (all of this is revealed by a narrator early on, who is used sparsely and surprisingly well throughout the film) . The year is 1965.
The two leads, who both make their screen debuts in this film, are excellent, bringing wit and charm to the two young lovers. Of course, the cast has an all star ensemble that also yields some excellent performance, particularly Edward Norton as the militaristic scout leader and an underused Tilda Swinton who plays, quite literally, Social Services.
Of course the film has a very striking and unique visual sensibility in terms of both costume and set, which manages to suggest, as well as it’s period, a certain air of timelessness to the film, with bright coloured clothes and locations occupying the majority of the screen most of the time.
Kara Hayward as Suzy
The film’s most polarizing quality seems to be how, for want of a better word, sweet it is. From it’s visuals to it’s young romantic characters, it immediately gives off a vibe that could be considered quite ‘twee’, but it works wonderfully, and adds an excellent sense of charm and an odd reality to the romance that is at the center of the story.
The script is excellent, and one of my favourites so far this year. It mangges to accomplish a great many things – it is dramatic and romantic, as well as having an excellent sense of humour throughout it, which sometimes veers into black comedy surprisingly well, riffing on the idea that these young characters are much older than one would expect, throwing them in ‘grown up’ situations, while all of the adult characters remain totally useless and incapable of finding the children.
From the sweetness of its central romance to the visual charm that is present through the entire film, Moonrise Kingdom, with its eccentric ensemble and excellent lead performances, is simply a delight to watch. It won’t be for everyone as its perhaps to ‘twee’, and some of the black comedy certainly won’t work for all viewers, but if you like it, and certainly if you like it as much as I did, then you will adore it. A joy to watch from beginning to end, it is, quite simply, a film to fall in love with.