Khaki Scout Sam (Jared Gilman) has disappeared. He resigned (by letter) from the Khaki Scouts and left with a miniature canoe, tent, and supplies. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) runs a pretty tight ship at Camp Ivanhoe and readies a rescue party with the scouts. He also notifies Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Soon after Sam’s disappearance, Suzy (Kara Hayward) is also found to be missing. She has left with a suitcase full of library books, a cat, and cat food. Sam and Suzy met at a church play about Noye’s Fludde—Noah, etc.—and instantly connected. They are odd ducks and both wish to escape their troubled lives, Sam from his foster family and Suzy from her overbearing, attorney parents Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand).
Moonrise Kingdom (2012) has a kernel of charm and goodness to it. That kernel is surrounded by a regular attempt to de-charm and un-good it with Wes Anderson-ness. Anderson is good with themes and images, but an acquired taste when it comes to dialogue (abetted by co-writer Roman Coppola) and the performances he gets from his actors. To these predictable flaws—”flaws” as his brand of quirk is not to my liking—Anderson adds the Quentin Tarantino stupidity of purposefully outdated camera tricks and effects. The only difference is that Moonrise Kingdom is set in 1965 and therefor, arguably, is performing chronologically relevant gratification beyond the purely selfish. The Narrator (Bob Balaban), though, that was selfishness.
Also in Moonrise Kingdom, and I would be remiss not to mention it, are moments rivaled (and surpassed) only by the beginning shots of Carrie (1976) for pure age-inappropriate creepiness. Ms. Hayward, who was about 13 when the film was made, is the subject of a shot where she’s in her underwear after a swim at the beach. I’d categorize that moment as dwelling. A little later, she and Sam make out and she mentions (and he acknowledges) his *cough* saluting the flag *cough* then he gets to second base and they go to bed. I think that was after they danced on the beach in their underwear, but that might have come later. It was weird. Defenders will, I am certain, say that I’m making something rude out of something innocent, but there’s nothing innocent about an erection.
But the kind heart of a live-action Disney film shines through and turns what I anticipated to be a grueling experience into something more manageable. I can sit comfortably and think on the movie it might have been, told without the over-precocious child dialogue, performed without the over-awkwardness of every character, and filmed with a contemporary clarity and zoom speed. I will say that the score does inspire me to re-examine my disregard of Benjamin Britten. There was a metaphor in there but I failed to bring it out. If it was a fugue, that might take a couple viewings.
A final word on the performances. You see the same dilemma in a Woody Allen movie. Do I, the actor, read the lines out like a self-parody and underline the jokes, or do I play it straight and square the circle? The answer is always, always, always to play it straight. Match Point (2005) and Midnight in Paris (2011) versus Cassandra’s Dream (2007) and Whatever Works (2009). I rest my case. In Moonrise Kingdom you’ve got half the cast going one way and half the cast going the other and compounding the deficiency. At least if it’s consistent, you can tune it out (or tune yourself in). The double trouble is that it’s Sam and Suzy taking up different positions. That’s understandable because Sam is given Chekov-like burdensome lines while Suzy is relatively ordinary in the speech department. No one is good because no character is exceptional except for Sam and he’s unbelievable—that is, cannot be believed.
Not worth boycotting. When I saw the trailer, I was convinced it was evil. If you like Anderson, surely you’ll love this and want to add it to your collection. My vindictiveness towards that kind of groupie-ism is surely what will keep me from ever buying it myself.
Not sure why it’s called “Moonrise Kingdom”.