Wes Anderson’s movies aren’t for everyone. Maybe that’s why I like them so much. I’m a huge fan of quirky, off-beat, occasionally hapless but always hopeful, and sometimes downright odd. I get his humor and I have since I fell in love with Bottle Rocket in college. I’ve tried to get others to love it too but to no avail. There have only been a couple of times that I feel like Anderson may have missed the mark ever so slightly (Life Aquatic, which pains me to say, didn’t do it for me) but it’s such a personal opinion that I can’t fault the guy. And actually, that’s kind of his deal. His movies are well-written, his characters are fully formed (in Anderson’s mind if not in their lives), and his movies are well-made. There’s no denying that the guy can write and direct. But sometimes his films fall flat with even his biggest fans.
This is not the case with his latest offering, Moonrise Kingdom. This movie is special. It’s special in that way that you want to ask it out on a date, take it to a nice dinner, and love it for the rest of your life. Imagine Romeo and Juliet meets The Great Escape with a dash of Rushmore and a hint of Blue Lagoon while somehow still managing to be completely original.
The story is: there are these 12-year olds (a boy called Sam and a girl called Suzy) who fall in love and attempt an escape from their lives apart in order to be together. Sam and Suzy have problems in their separate lives but together they make sense. A search for Sam and Suzy ensues bringing together most of the fictional New England island of New Penzance where Suzy lives and Sam is camping with his troop of Khaki Scouts.. Searching for Sam are his fellow Khaki scouts, none of whom actually like Sam but live by a ‘no man left behind’ way of life and are led by Khaki Scoutmaster Ward. They go after him, hilariously armed to the teeth, and have to be reminded by Scoutmaster Ward this is a rescue mission and they are not to harm him. Searching for Suzy are her parents, played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, who have multiple problems of their own. Searching for both kids is the slightly dumb but very sweet island police captain played by Bruce Willis.
One thing that really worked for Mr. Anderson this time around is spicing up the folks with whom he works. Often, as some directors do, he’d work with the Wilson brothers, Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, etc. This time around he used some new folks and it was just what the film needed. Edward Norton was fabulous in the role of Scoutmaster Ward that, once upon a time, probably would have gone to Owen Wilson. Frances McDormand was excellent in a role that could have been handed to Angelica Huston. Wilson and Huston would have been great in the roles but at this point in Anderson’s career, would have been expected. I’m so glad he chose to branch out and work with these folks. In fact they fit in with his material so well that I’m surprised they haven’t worked together before.
Joining a completely astounding cast including the aforementioned Murray, McDormand, Willis, and Norton are folks like Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Harvey Keitel, and newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, the latter two as Suzy and Sam respectively. Both Hayward and Gilman were fantastic and played the star-crossed lovers with such panache.
The film itself was lovely. There was always something to look at and I adore Anderson’s aesthetic. He borders on incredibly kooky but somehow is able to reign it back in before he goes overboard. I feel like I’m rambling but I can’t say enough about this film. I’m so glad I got to finally see it and I can’t wait to buy it on DVD. Then I’ll be counting the days until Criterion gets their hands on it and releases it in their collection.