1965. New Penzance, a tiny island off New England’s coast. 16 miles long. Chickchaw territory. No paved roads, but dirt roads. The setting of Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is a place where everyone knows everyone and people who do not fit in live a silent life.
One of those people, we learn, is twelve year old Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). She is her family’s “troubled child,” complete with binoculars with which she looks through as often as she can and electric blue eyeshadow. Suzy lives on one side of the island with her family – her mother (Frances McDormand), who has had an affair and uses a megaphone to call the kids to dinner, and her father (Bill Murray), who is wistful with a pinch of sadness.
On the other side of the island, we meet Sam Shakusky. An orphan, runaway scout, and generally disliked among his troupe.
One year ago, Sam and Suzy met backstage at a play production at the church. After pen-palling with each other, they decide to run away together. Sam, with his scout skills and canoe, and Suzy, with her suitcase of books and brother’s record player.
While the two seem an unlikely couple, their tacit understanding of each other and stark independence (almost too independent and too wise for a mere 12 year old…) make a perfect pair. They’re both a little violent when the times call for it (Suzy stabs one of the scouts hunting them with lefty scissors), but they care for each other in a way that cannot be expressed in their dialogue. It’s a beautiful relationship many people do not get to experience in real life and their chemistry – slightly mysterious, always passionate and curious – jumps off the screen.
The script is simple and charming, portraying nearly every child as more mature – Suzy and Sam as the primary example of this. Were the two of them not interrupted, their camp would have lasted weeks. My only problem is that the children can sometimes be so wise and their dialogue so mature that it makes them less believable. The script does an apt job of bringing across the premise of the movie, where actions speak louder and better than words (which many characters do not no how to use, apparently). Because of this, the actors read lines. It’s a very unique form of film, where words are often just read and not interpreted, but combined with the era it is set in and the character’s personalities, it sews the film together.
The problem with this is that, while the cast is an absolute dream cast built by picking the best of the best of the most talented, many actors come across as perhaps slightly bland and straight forward. Bill Murray and Bruce Willis have a few incredible moments, but the focus is always on the two children, who (for both of their first films ever) do an incredible and convincing job.
While I wanted so much to feel like the movie hooked me, when I watched it for the first time, it was comical and interesting but missing an element of life. The first half of the movie was often predictable and the pacing was odd and peculiar, leaving me wondering where the film was going and, often, when it would end or pick up the pace and sweep me off my feet.
Sadly, the film never swept me off my feet. It did, however, leave me intrigued. For hours after watching it, I felt as if there was some deeper meaning that I was completely missing. I don’t want to disillusion myself, because the movie was slow and boring for me a lot of the time, but I remember thinking: I will like this the second I walk out and think about it. And I was right. As time goes on and the more I think about the movie, the more I liked it.
The whole feel and mood of the film is excellent. The colors are faded and slightly saturated, an interesting and vintage look that is all too appropriate. It’s as if we’ve discovered some secret gem from the 60s that we’re only watching now.
Even the score is excellent and most fitting. Benjamin Britten and Alexandre Desplat have created a fitting score that heightens the sense of adventure and the spontaneous flow of the film. Because the dialogue can be sparse at times, the contrast between the music created from Suzy’s record player and the score that overpowers the theatre (in the most beautiful, sweeping way) is so jolting and powerful. The music is ingrained with Anderson’s film in a way that it helps navigate the viewer’s emotions while steering the characters as well.
And while I was not swept away by all aspects of the film, once I left the cinema, I was puzzled and began to think. I don’t want this to change the fact that I was unusually bored while watching the movie, though. Much like Suzy and Sam’s secret beach, Moonrise Kingdom, the meaning and significance of this film can be found after much searching on a secret beach in Chickchaw territory. I just want people to know that it’s one of those artistic masterpieces that can only be fully appreciated once you’ve left the cinema.
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
The Royal Tenenbaums
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