Star-studded performances enhance the two young people’s story. Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) meet serendipitously at a local theatrical performance and become pen pals. Sam is a skilled khaki scout, very self sufficient, and the two set off on a cross-island trek to a secluded cove most adults would find romantic (if only there were a KOA cabin with a mattress in it.) Suzy is the kind of girl you wanted to be when you were young, a little bit dangerous, a risk taker, her own person.
Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play Suzy’s dysfunctional parents, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) is a maligned khaki scout leader turned hero, and Bruce Willis is Captain Sharp. Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman from other Anderson films) has a small role as another scout leader sympathetic to the young love of the two teens fleeing society.
The filming took place in Rhode Island, and the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful. Some of Anderson’s sets have a dollhouse like appearance (see The Royal Tenenbaums and The Grand Budapest Hotel for other examples). His screenplays are always inventive, creative, and with a fine, fine attention to detail. He really expects the viewer to be paying attention.
The film begins with Suzy’s brothers listening to The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra composed by Benjamin Britten. If you circumvent that so annoying streaming Netflix programming that minimizes the end of the film into a little square box on the upper left of the screen, you can get back to the credits full screen, where they should be watched in their entirety. Anderson inserts his own Young Person’s Guide to Alexandre Desplat’s orchestration of his film in the end credits, and it is delightful to watch.
I like Anderson’s directing his actors to be deadpan if you will, a comic touch that makes the film elicit smiles throughout. I have appreciated his sense of humor ever since Rushmore in 1998. His movies seem few and far between, but then you can’t rush excellence, something I will remember in my own work.
Would kids like this film? I’m not sure. Part of the attraction is how it hearkens back to the 1960’s, when I was just a pre-teen myself. That’s why adults like Wes Anderson’s movies so much. It’s refreshing to see a work of art like this that takes risks and doesn’t subscribe to any of the Hollywood set of rules for making a blockbuster, all action and violence, and no real redeeming story. Moonrise Kingdom has class and substance. Watch it when you need some cheering up.