I can never ever understand why children apparently don’t count when it comes to film credits. It riles me to see that a relatively inconsequential character such as Tilda Swinton appears in the opening titles whilst the two young stars of the film go unmentioned.
That said, I suppose they are a bit of a surprise treat as a result. Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman star as Suzy and Sam, two world-weary children who, following an extensive pen-pal correspondence, plan an elopement. The attempt is an escape from the social tyranny they experience on a daily basis, be it at the hands of a parent or a khaki scout bully. They are a wildly (if a little awkwardly) romantic pair who are not afraid to express themselves and stand up for one another. It is when the star-crossed kids realise they’re being pursued that the s*** really hits the fan. Amongst violent stabbings, getting to second base and the hero of the tale being hit by lightning, Wes Anderson takes us along on a turbulent jaunt down the path towards meaning.
The ensemble cast makes for nutritious viewing with as many colourful characters with tribulations and revelations as there are scout badges. Bruce Willis cuts an unusually sympathetic figure as the humble, dejected police officer whilst Anderson veteran Bill Murray adds some balancing bitterness to the overall flavour as the slob father. Meanwhile, Edward Norton occupies our compassion as his unwavering good nature brings a comforting positivity and linearity to the unfolding plot. Of course, it is the two young’uns who make the biggest impression, managing to deliver enchantingly realised and mature performances in heightened and sometimes downright ridiculous character-driven circumstances.
Sadly, this is also where the film falls down. With a ramblingly unfurling story that leads us to a slightly premature denouement, it seems as though the picture could have done with a little more character justification and development. For example, why is McDormand’s character so quick to drop her shady relationship with the kindly police officer? It seems to me that the children struggle because their parents lack grounding and are unable to guide them. Unfortunately this is conveyed a little too loosely to truly enrich the film.
Has Wes Anderson niched himself into a corner? A little bit. But he’s still young and there’s plenty of potential for him to manuever himself out and deliver a grade-A cinematic treat next time.
With comically timed cinematography, a melodramatic score and witty script writing, Moonrise Kingdom is a highly embellished but simple story that reminds me of a spilt box of treasure. The best advice I could give to a would-be viewer is not to expect too much and to embrace the film for all its twee faults.
Two things I learnt from watching Moonrise Kingdom: Blue eye shadow can look great and Wes Anderson clearly has some sort of pet-hate for dogs.