Moonrise Kingdom is a delightful, light-hearted film about two young people who fall in love and run away from home together. The female, Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward, in her film debut), is a depressed goth girl, unhappy with her life. We first see her in the dressing room of a small theater, preparing to go out to play the part of a raven in her black costume. The boy, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman, also in his feature-length debut), is a bright, precocious orphan and Khaki Scout who is stifled by his uneven, yet regimented life in foster homes. The twelve-year-olds make a pact to make a life together away from the unhappiness of their homes.
The film is directed by Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums) and written by Anderson along with Roman Coppola (The Darjeeling Limited). The film takes place on an island off the coast of New England in 1965. Soon after they disappear on the island, a search party forms to find the duo. The rescue party consists of Suzy’s parents Walt (played by Bill Murray, Caddyshack) and Laura (Frances McDormand, Almost Famous), as well as local police captain Sharp (Bruce Willis, Die Hard), and Scoutmaster Ward (Edward Norton, Red Dragon). While the group chases after the young duo, a terrible storm is bearing down on the island, threatening everyone involved, especially the lead characters.
I really enjoyed how close the pursuing group stayed to the couple, and the different ways that the pair was able to elude capture without seeming unreal. There were moments that made reference to various other movies for comic effect, while hardly deviating from the necessary storyline. The young couple felt real, and brought the audience into their world.
There was never any doubt in my mind as to the acting abilities of Norton, Murray, McDormand or Willis. These are four of the finest actors to grace the silver screen in the modern era. Sure enough, every one of them turned in a stellar performance, especially Edward Norton in the scene where Sam’s foster parents are told of their ward’s disappearance. However, what did surprise me was not only the raw talent, but the polished acting of newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman in the lead roles. I found myself caught up in their dilemmas, first before leaving on their journey and then through the hardships of life on the trail and their attempts at avoiding being caught by the residents of the island (which also included the remains of Sam’s scout troop).
The cinematography (by Robert D. Yeoman, Dogma) was brilliant. At times, I thought that tracks may have been used a little too often for camera movement, but it worked well given the nature of the film.