Moonrise Kingdom, an ode to love and beauty

This tale of two young lovers on the run, which opened the Cannes festival in 2012, brilliantly combines romance with just about the right amount of comedy.

Moonrise Kingdom‘s opening scene

The best way to describe a Wes Anderson movie is by saying that it is… a Wes Anderson movie! The director’s typical and unusual style has made his movies, since his debut, easily distinguishable. Moonrise Kingdom is no exception.

Colorful, eccentric, animation-like and incredibly symmetrical, Moonrise Kingdom embodies the best Wes Anderson has to offer, and has become, soon after its release, emblematic of his style. The movie is set in 1965, in an imaginary island off the coast of New England. It tells the story of two twelve-year old lovers on the run, Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). Sam is an orphan attending a Khaki Scout summer camp led by Scoutmaster Randy Ward (Edward Norton), whereas Suzy lives with her parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), who are both lawyers and whose crumbling marriage is complicated by Mrs Bishop’s affair with the local police chief, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis). Introverted, creative and precocious, the two kids met a year before during a church performance of the one act opera for children, Noye’s Fludde—an encounter staged in a beautifully intense flashback—and have been pen pals since then. The adventure starts when they secretly meet again face to face, Sam with his camping equipment and Suzy with a pack of overdue library books and a cat.

One of the posters of the film featuring its exceptional cast

Needless to say the cast is one of the strengths of this movie. Putting together Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand and Bruce Willis—who plays an unusually weak and confused character—is almost a guarantee of outstanding performances. However, the two young actors, Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, still manage to steal the show with their profound dazzling acting.

The strong presence of art through music, literature and fashion, added to the gorgeous sceneries and the noble and innocent representation of love between the two protagonists, makes Moonrise Kingdom, above all, a celebration of love and beauty in all its forms.The innocent but forbidden passion between the two preteens is faced with the oppressing morals of the adults surrounding them, represented by their parents, the police officer, but also the social worker (Tilda Swinton) and her absurd sense of bureaucracy.

It is difficult not to compare Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom to Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le fou, although the latter is much darker than Anderson’s charming depiction of juvenile love. Both films are delightfully colorful, with a subtle sense of surrealism, and tackle the same theme: Lovers on the run.

On the left, Pierrot le Fou. On the right, Moonrise Kingdom. The latter was a tribute to the French masterpiece.

The parallel between the two movies goes much deeper and concerns certain specific scenes. One of the most obvious examples is that, in both movies, the female protagonist commits a violent act to protect her loved one using the same improbable weapon: a pair of scissors. In both cases, the viewer doesn’t witness the attack, but only its aftermath. Similarly, both couples find shelter on a beach where they spend blissful time, before being caught by the people after them. Although Pierrot le fou wasn’t a direct inspiration for Wes Anderson, Moonrise Kingdom can nonetheless be seen as a subtle tribute to Godard, all the more so as it is set in the same year Pierrot le fou was released.

Moonrise Kingdom is nothing less than a delightful and visually stunning piece of art, one of the best Wes Anderson movies to this day.

Moonrise Kingdom

Directed by: Wes Anderson

Produced by: Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Steven Rales, Jeremy Dawson

Written by: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola

Starring: Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban

Music by: Alexandre Desplat

Cinematography: Robert Yeoman

Productioncompanies: American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush

Distributed by: Focus Features

Release dates: May 16, 2012 (Cannes), May 25, 2012 (United States)

Running time: 94 minutes

Budget:               $16 million

Box office: $68.3 million


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