Arts, Movies — June 6, 2012 11:48 am

Moonrise Kingdom: Good, Awkward, Possibly Illegal

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If you haven’t seen any other Wes Anderson films stop here. I’m serious. Stop. First, ask yourself this question. “What am I doing with my life?” Then go here and start purchasing and viewing. I can learn to forgive you for having missed out all these years, but only because I feel so horrible that you have.

Okay. Let’s talk Moonrise Kingdom.

First, watch this.

Photograph: Kevin Scanlon/Getty Images

Moonrise Kingdom is Wes Anderson’s seventh full-length film and his first since 2009’s The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film is set off the coast of New England. Theyear is 1965 and we follow the escapades of Khaki Scout (some form of Boy Scouts? I don’t know. I quit while I was a Cub Scout…) Sam Shakusky, a 12-year old who falls in love with Suzy Bishop the daughter of two lawyers played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand. Fun fact: Bill Murray is in 99% of everything that Wes Anderson does.

The two pint sized lovers (I use lovers in the realest sense and we’ll come back to how uncomfortable this will make you feel.) flea Sam’s summer camp and with the help of the other scouts the pair flea authorities. But when a violent storm turns up, the whole island is thrown into disarray. Hilarity ensues, am I right?

Alright. So let’s talk about what was good.

In true Wes Anderson fashion, the film is beautiful shot and has a consistent color scheme, which if has been variations of blue and yellow and green for the past few films. Fans of his other work will clearly be satisfied. It looks like a Wes Anderson film; it plays like a Wes Anderson film. It’s a Wes Anderson film.

I haven’t read many reviews, but one critique I have heard is that it’s actually too positive. Too positive? I’m not sure that I completely agree (The Fantastic Mr. Fox was an animated film featuring a fox and a badger for God’s sake) but either way, I welcome the positivity. And it follows the journey of two 12 year olds and their friends. At summer camp. Not typical territory for dramatic performances.

In my mind, the standout performances are the two little lovers, played by newcomers, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. The two carry the film with the maturity of actors twice, I don’t know, THREE TIMES, their age. Suzy Bishop’s character harkens back to Margot Tennenbaum from one of Anderson’s earlier films, The Royal Tennenbaums. I wouldn’t be surprised if that is where much of the inspiration for her character came from.

Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzmen (OBVIOUSLY), and Bruce Willis offer their support. I’ve got to be honest; I was a little worried about Bruce Willis role, but great news, everyone, he’s as awkward as the rest (a prerequisite if you want to be in a Wes Anderson film).

And now… the bad.


Let’s revisit the two main characters. I won’t give too much away, but Sam (Gilman) falls in love with Suzy (Hayward) when he sees her in a play where she plays some kind of bird. What kind of play is this?! Over the course of time we follow these two young lovers (there’s that word again) as they find any way to be together.

Cute right? OH. MY. GOSH. WRONG



Their romance plays out like what I imagine happens in Fifty Shades of Gray. I haven’t read it… yet. GROSS, JUST KIDDING. And it sort of feels like your viewing something illegal. Barf. One particular scene hyper-sexualizes a bra (training???) and underwear wearing Suzy who allows Sam to touch her chest. Ummm… I think I need to close my eyes. What is happening?! There’s some talk about Sam’s dirty bits touching Suzy. Just cringed typing that. Thank God, a bit of this awkward exchange (for the characters AND audience) is broken up by some humor, but it’s still hardly palatable regardless.

The film is still great. And like I said, you should see it as soon as you can, despite its extremely limited release. But mark my words, the first thing you’re going to talk about after it’s over is not how great the cinematography was or how this is Bruce Willis’ greatest role or how you’d want Edward Norton as your own scout Master. No. You’ll be trying to process the mature romance of Sam and Suzy. And probably trying to understand how it’s not illegal 

The bad bits don’t outweigh the good. And honestly I’m over sensationalizing it perhaps. But you’ll understand what I mean when you see the film for yourself

Not a ton of new territory is covered here, but Wes Anderson’s still got it. I don’t think it’s his best work (that would be The Royal Tennenbaums in case you were wondering), but all the elements are there and it works well. The young actors are fun to watch and the older supporting cast makes it well worth it. It’ll probably be one of my favorites this year. And I do hope Bruce Willis will come back for more in the future.

So go see it, you guys. Just know that some things cannot be unseen.

Am I supposed to give stars or a rating or something? I give it good stars and a “yes, go see it” rating.

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  • I literally just got back from seeing this and I totally agree. The first thing I wanted to talk about was if it was legal. Even on an emotional level, it was kind of disturbing that 12 year olds were meeting that deep emotional void in each other. Wes Anderson basically took the themes from his other movies (people feeling isolated amidst family dysfunction and finding ways to connect…that are still dysfunctional but beautiful nonetheless) and applied them to kids. Which worked in that it spoke to this basic human need, but is perhaps easier to metabolize in a character like Margo than a 12 year old playing the same character (as you pointed out).

    As always, the sets were a feast for the eyes, introducing Ed Norton and Bruce Willis to the mix was a delight, and I wouldn’t have minded if Jason Schwartzman was given a more prominent role.

  • Holy cow- I’m guessing neither Billy nor Christina grew up in the sixties or seventies; back when some of us at least (as children) weren’t coddled or medicated to the point of neurosis.

    • This is true. I was born in the 80′s. Could you elaborate on what you mean? Have you seen the film?

  • This was your biggest gripe with the film – wondering whether or not the artfully conceived, poignant exposition of a first love is “legal”? Or was your title just a clever attempt at generating link bait?

    In an era when most movies substitute narrative and character development for egregious violence, inhumane torture porn, or vapid sex, it’s downright refreshing to watch a film that doesn’t insult the viewer’s intelligence and maturity.

    Anyone who actually remembers what it was like to be a child on the early cusp of adulthood should be able to identify immediately with Anderson’s melancholic take on first love in an imperfect world. I enjoyed the film and wish it received a wider release instead of in just art house and independent theaters. The young actors did a marvelous job in their demanding roles.

    • Thanks for you comment. The link bait worked. What I wrote was partly over exaggeration and I did mention in the article that I felt the young actors did a phenomenal job.

      And if someone’s biggest gripe with the film was a 2 minute scene, I think we’re alright.

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