Wes Anderson has made some truly amazing films. Films and that are funny and tragic, emotional and light-hearted, depressing and life-amirming, all at the same time. ‘Rushmore’ and ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ in particular contain important morals about relationships and wasting your life attempting to complete trivial tasks, and this film follows in their footsteps as one of his superior pictures. The film begins with 13-year old Susie going about her ‘daily routine’ at home, with parents Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, living on the small but populated island of New Penzance. She listens to records of classical music and looks through her trademark binoculars, but mostly she loves to read fantasy novels, set in “magical kingdoms on Earth or elsewhere.” Across the island, Edward Norton is troupe leader of the Khaki Scouts, from which our main protagonist, 13-year old Sam Shakusky, has just escaped. Norton contacts the lonely local policeman Bruce Willis, who we see is having an affair with Susie’s mother, and the search begins for Sam, before Susie goes missing too.
Willis and Norton are wonderful as the two lonely, island-bound characters, and stand out among the Anderson regulars. Norton interacts wonderfully with the boy-scouts, when they are updating him on Sam’s current location, and when scout head honcho Harvey Keitel strips him of his badge for being incompetent, he immediately proves himself by rescuing Keitel from certain death.
The film is jam-packed with Anderson’s signature features: the alpha-male giving orders to his pack (Mr Fox in Fantastic Mr Fox, Bruce Willis in MK), the long shot of a landscape where very little is happening, the onscreen narrator, binoculars, yellow titles, precocious child, dates audio equipment (the list goes on over at Wes Anderson Bingo), but it is the original moments; the areas that Anderson has never explored before, such as the passionate love scene between the two pre-teens (which borders on being frighteningly realistic, these kids should hook up) and the Hitchcockian chase across the rooftop of the local church.
Although the child actors were taken out of school, and had no prior acting experience, their performances are far more compelling and believable than those of many more well-known child actors. Kara Hayward, who plays Susie, reminds one of a young Margot Tenenbaum, and Jared Gilman is absolutely charming as Sam. They are both outsiders, living amongst adults who have simply given up on living an interesting, and wanting to escape the tedious ordeal that is the daily routine of New Penzance life and live in the world of fantasy novels. The ‘Moonrise Kingdom’.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content involving children and children smoking and drinking