Running away with the one you love, how romantic. You get two kids doing it and escaping into the forest, things start to get a little fantastic. The world of fairy tales and adventure is what Moonrise Kingdom promises, but there always lies the harsh reality looming over everything. Parents and the law always keeping you down, man.
Moonrise Kingdom tells the story of two kids who met during a theatre performance and coming up with a plan to run away together through letters. We have the khaki scout and orphan Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) on one side and problem child with her pet kitten Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) on the other. Well, to say Suzy is the only problem child here would be a lie, everyone is just a little problematic in this film. Thanks to Sam’s expert scout knowledge, the two can get by in the wild, but they have to be wary of the remaining scouts, Suzy’s parents, social services and Bruce Willis. I mean Captain Sharp played by Bruce Willis. Of course. The tale shifts between reality and innocent romance, all drenched in green and brown hues, the camera always having the actors looking our way. It’s beautiful, like stepping into a dream world.
Moonrise Kingdom is often charming, fun and full of funny dry lines or visual moments. The tree house stuck on the towering stick thin tree or the way a Noah’s Ark play is cancelled during a storm are just two slight examples of the quirky but pleasing scenes director Wes Anderson does so well. But he also had the cold reality checks and we see this through Sam’s possible outcome as an orphan left on his own and Suzy’s parents family troubles. Walt Bishop (Bill Murray) plays a rather depressing character as we see him try his best despite what his wife Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand) has been up to. These sub plots to the greater scheme of things really paint a stark contrast on the romantic adventure we see most of the time. One brutal scene starts it all and from there we realise that this isn’t going to be all fun and games.
A snappy pace and simple story make for one of the strongest Wes Anderson films in years. It doesn’t retread much old ground like The Darjeeling Limited did, and the young protagonists being centre stage create something fresh and free-spirited. The unique presentation and unusual characters are still intact and the great side characters and stories help build the small island into an established believable place. Bruce Willis steals the show with his quest to find the kids and his subtly sad life filtered in through his actions and comments make for one of his strongest roles in years. I’d say he even outdoes the two kids who perhaps needed a few more scenes together, but no one lets the film down as far as performance is concerned. Moonrise Kingdom is a return to form and all thanks to a tighter story and a look back into the dreams and expectations of childhood.