BY RICK JACKSON
Director Wes Anderson loves to make movies where life's little lessons play a major part in your understanding of them. In Moonrise Kingdom, you are politely told what happens when you fail to live up to your responsibilities when the two protagonists, Sam and Suzy, decide to run away together.
In their screenplay, Anderson and Roman Coppola, have used this idea when things go away and what better way to exemplify this in children. Sam and Suzy's parents, the authorities, social services and a scout troop are all searching for the two missing children. Set in 1965, you are introduced to the narrator (Bob Balaban) who is the director's conscience. Watch how he is dressed whenever he appears.
Without divulging too much more, it is the derivative plot threads that slowly begin to capture your attention in what is, on the surface, predictable, but, in the end, it is a lot of meandering fun.
In Anderson's world, the children are more important than the grownups. Like Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), the director's first foray in animation, his latest shows adults on the edge of a lunatic fringe. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand play Suzy's parents as unmannered and restless creatures from another planet.
The other adults are free thinking peons who are unfailingly irresponsible, while the kids are smarter and more mature. Examples of the former include an overambitious scoutmaster (Edward Norton), an insipid police captain (Bruce Willis), and an officious social worker (Tilda Swinton).
Jared Gilman plays Sam with maturity and honesty and he injects the film with a dose of intelligence among the idiocy and irresponsibility that is evident from the beginning.
What saves the film from slipping into a sea of mediocrity is the cast and their antics complete with some funny behaviour and dialogue help express the director's own thoughts in a world which has increasingly become too serious. The scout troop symbolizes how ridiculous society has become and how we are all headed in a direction where insanity doesn't help solve anything. It is all presented in a fantasy which is similar to Anderson's last film.
In an amusing turn of events when reality breaks down to become fantasy, there emerges a tenacious stream of thought that almost goes against the grain and, at the same time, almost ruins the film's overall impact. Another striking example is Harvey Keitel's appearance as a scout leader who demands to be respected. The sequences involving the scouts are reminiscent of the absurdity of life in much the same way Stanley Kubrick examined the absurdity of war in Paths of Glory (1957).
One must cheer Anderson for creating such fun out of the seriousness and the entire cast contributes to it with a preparedness that allows each of the actors a chance to play themselves with an equal comic and serious side without going over the top. It reminded me of Norman Jewison's vastly superior The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming (1966), except there weren't any kids.
As always with Anderson's films, one must be careful not to dig too deep into their meaning and just sit back and enjoy them. His universe of comedy can be appreciated more on this superificial level without prejudice or a misunderstanding of any kind.
Everything is done in the spirit of fun and the soundtrack adds to its peculiarities in spades. If you see Moonrise Kingdom, remember to be open-minded.
It is rated PG, with the warning: language may offend.
July 1, 2012
Copyright Rick Jackson 2012