07. Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Runtime: 1 hr. 34 min.
Cast: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, Bob Balaban
Plot: Twelve-year-old Sam (Gilman) breaks free of Camp Ivanhoe and the guidance of the Khaki Scouts and Scoutmaster Randy Ward (Norton). More than any preteen adventure, he’s out there chasing pure love after meeting Suzy Bishop (Hayward), an equally whip-smart, eccentric 12-year-old who lives on the island on which the camp is located. Her parents, his compatriots, and every other adult in the vicinity are on the lookout to keep these crazy kids from running off into the wilderness, but love this young and raw is hard to beat.
It Is Beautiful, Steve: After working together on Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson brought in Alexandre Desplat to compose for an equally vibrant and youthful tale. Another frequent collaborator, the wacky and playful Mark Mothersbaugh, added in percussion, as well as snippets of Benjamin Britten — a composer known for writing specifically for children’s voices. The film’s vintage set screams the ‘60s, but rather than continue to indulge in The Kinks, The Creation, and the rest of the British Invasion, the film is rooted in a timeless youth and deep romanticism. The climactic scene of Sam and Suzy dancing and finally having their first kiss to Françoise Hardy does come straight from 1962, but the French tune similarly transcends time and age.
How Much Kinks?: The film is set just before the Davies brothers released their first songs.
A Word on Fonts: It seems super appropriate that reading the title of the film requires you to ride through the delightful twirls at the very beginning of the cursive M in Moonrise. It may not be Futura, but the golden yellow and curly cursive feel just as iconically Wes Anderson.
Best Doomed Love Affair: The whole island is against Sam and Suzy getting and staying together, not to mention that they’re 12 years old; that’s about as doomed as it gets. It’s hard to have a lot of faith that a pair of preteens have what it takes to keep a love affair alive whether or not Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, and Bruce Willis are trying to wrangle them, but considering how mature and twee these two are, maybe it’s not so doomed.
Most Problematic Fave: More than a few writers were uncomfortable with the sexual awakening scene of the two stars dancing in their underwear and making a physical connection. Not every Wes Anderson film has inspired headlines insisting that the movie “Is Not Sadomasochistic Kiddie Porn,” but then again capturing the wonder of first love is a … complicated? … thing.
Most Gratuitous Set Fetishism: The titular Moonrise Kingdom, a secluded cove that the love-driven pair plan to make their home, is a lush respite away from all the precise details of the usual Wes Anderson sets.
Best Prop: It’s hard to argue with Sam’s Khaki Scout uniform and raccoon-tail hat, but I’d certainly take one of those portable record players.
Bob Gets the Spirit Award: Everyone’s life should be narrated by Bob Balaban.
Verdict: Wes Anderson’s catalog is full of precocious kids struggling with a world disastrously low on precocity — or at least that thinks so, despite all of the precise choices made in every vintage coat button and handwritten note. But often those kids have already hit the wall and needed to face the real world (the Tenenbaum trio) or figure out how much of the world they can rule with their eccentric decisions (Max Fischer). But Suzy and Sam are instead embracing their version of reality, despite attacking forces, to the point of trying to hide away from the world entirely and creating their own. What could be more true to young love? There are plenty of touching character choices throughout the adult population, but the two beating hearts at the core of this film cannot be denied, even to the point of a classically sweet happy ending.