Our Score: 5 out of 5 stars
Wes Anderson has always managed to amaze me. From early films “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore” to the stop motion “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” he has perfected a simple style of filmmaking that is easily recognizable but not easy to replicate. He continues that tradition with his new film, “Moonrise Kingdom.”
As the film begins, in what appears to be the style of an old 16 mm educational film we all remember from school, we are introduced first to the Bishop family. They live in a plain clapboard house on the water in Rhode Island. Mr. Walt Bishop (Bill Murray) is the quiet, reserved father. His wife, Laura (Frances McDormand) is also quiet but hiding something inside. The children consist of three young sons and pre-teen daughter, Suzy (Hayward). A brief tour of the house and surrounding areas concludes by the water, where we are suddenly introduced to a narrator (Bob Balaban), who informs us that the story we are about to see gets pretty intense when, three days from now, a hurricane is going to hit land.
Told as innocently as its 1965 setting, “Moonrise Kingdom” may be Anderson’s most accessible film to date. But it’s still clearly an Anderson film. From the quirky situations the characters find themselves in to the almost slide-show like camera movement, the film is a celebration of a simpler time when young love had a chance if you fought hard enough. Besides the Bishop family we meet some of the other quirky characters of the story. Young Sam (Gilman) is a run-away Khaki Scout whose brief encounter with Suzy a year ago has resulted in the two becoming pen pals with dreams of running off and being together forever. Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton) feels bad because he didn’t realize that Sam was a problem child. However, he doesn’t feel bad enough that he doesn’t arm his young charges with hatchets, knives and a bow and arrow when the begin to search for the AWOL Sam. Also involved in the search is Captain Sharp (Willis) the local law. Other characters, played by well known names like Harvey Keitel and Tilda Swinton, also meld seamlessly into the story. But it is Gilman and Hayward, both making their film debuts, that steal the film and hold it together. Whether holding hands overlooking the water or fumbling through their first kisses, the two youngsters are heartbreakingly believable as they learn the good and bad of first love.
The script, by Anderson and Roman Coppola (Francis’ son, Sophia’s brother) is tight and smart while the photography, by Robert Yeohman, jumps off the screen. And a smart soundtrack, comprised of Alexandre Desplat’s original score interspliced with Hank Williams and Benjamin Britten compositions, helps carry the mood.