Sunday, June 10, 2012

Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Written by: Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola
Directed by: Wes Anderson
Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton and Bill Murray

For every fan of Wes Anderson's directorial efforts, there are the naysayers who brush off his whimsical comedies as emotionless trifles. While Anderson's style may not be to everyone's taste it's hard to deny the impact of Moonrise Kingdom's wonderful, poignant script.

Set on an island off the New England coast in 1965, Anderson's latest is arguably his best since 1998's cult classic, Rushmore. Twelve-year-olds Sam and Suzy (fantastic newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) fall in love and, after spending months apart while Sam -- a Khaki Scout -- is away at camp, decide to run away together. Suzy's parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) enlist a group of ragtag townspeople, from the Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) to the police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), to help them track down the runaways.

Anderson's sharp script and precocious leads envelope the film in a nostalgic embrace -- despite its fantastical elements it feels grounded in reality, reminding you of your first childhood crush. Suzy treks through the wilderness with her kitten, record player and favourite books to meet Sam, searching for a place to belong. Sam, an orphan, is eager for a sense of family, something he feels Suzy can provide. These two lonely kids are the heart of soul of Moonrise Kingdom and Gilman and Hayward have a natural chemistry together. The duo nail Anderson's dry, witty dialogue.

The rest of the talented cast is comprised of both Anderson regulars and a couple of new faces (Norton, especially, fits in comfortably, taking on a rare comedic role). Like other Anderson films, the stories he creates are detached from the rest of the world -- however, the issues that come up are relatable: first love, impeding divorce, depression and isolation.

In a summer filled with action sequels and comic book superheroes, Moonrise Kingdom is a welcome treat -- funny, sweet and whimsical. It's an elegantly strange confection.