Three years ago, writer-director Wes Anderson created “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” an amazing animated children’s film. His latest effort, the delightful “Moonrise Kingdom,” is about children.
In some ways, Anderson always makes movies about children, whether they are high school students as in “Rushmore,” or simply lost, confused men trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up.
“Moonrise Kingdom,” which could be Anderson’s most honest movie yet, also contains arguably his two most mature characters, who both happen to be 12: Sam (Jared Gilman), a bespectacled Khaki Scout, who spots Suzy (Kara Hayward), dressed as a raven for a church play. They begin exchanging letters and form a strong bond.
They decide to run away together, using Sam’s wilderness skills to live on a remote corner of their island home in 1960s New England.
Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) organizes a search party of other Khaki Scouts to find Sam. Suzy’s parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) are likewise concerned, and the local police Capt. Sharp (Bruce Willis) gets involved. (Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman and Bob Balaban also turn up in juicy little roles.)
Though Sam and Suzy are both “troubled” kids, they get along just fine. Their adventure contains many lovely and bittersweet moments, such as when Suzy reads from her beloved books (stolen from the library), or the when they listen to records and dance on the beach.
In one remarkable scene, they catch a turtle only to discover that someone has written on its shell.
Yet it’s the grownups who have imposed their sadness, disappointments and insecurities on the children. Anderson illustrates the gap between child and adult with costume choices, continually drawing attention to the children’s eyes with eyeglasses, eyeliner and binoculars, while the grownups wear funny pants.
Other motifs include references to Noah’s Ark, and the promise of a new start after strong rain washes everything clean.
Anderson weaves ideas and moods together into a beautiful outdoor tapestry, touched by fog and sea and open fields, and accompanied by melancholy, silly music.
In “Moonrise Kingdom,” Anderson wonderfully sees beauty in sadness, understands how humor fits in and appeals to his audience to do the same.
Moonrise Kingdom ★★★½
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand
Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Directed by Wes Anderson
Running time 1 hour 34 minutes