"Moonrise Kingdom," directed by Wes Anderson and starring Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as two 12-year-olds who run away together, is a charmingly oddball film of youthful innocence, writes Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald in this review. The adult roles are played by Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton.
Like all of Wes Anderson’s movies, the charmingly oddball “Moonrise Kingdom” takes place in a world where everything seems pleasantly faded, where people read crackly-covered library books rather than e-books, and where young people are allowed to be genuinely innocent. This film is something of a Romeo-and-Juliet story: Two 12-year-olds, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), run away together, to the consternation of various adults. It’s the summer of 1965, and the story takes place on a New England island community, just big enough for two kids to disappear together.
Sam and Suzy — we see their first meeting, backstage at a school play, in a lovestruck flashback — come from different worlds. He’s an orphan, unhappy with his foster family, who’s spending the summer at Khaki Scout camp; she’s the daughter of two attorneys (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, crisply calling each other “counselor”), living in a comfortable home with her three little brothers, all masters of deadpan. Before meeting Suzy at their planned rendezvous point in a field, the efficient Sam fills a backpack with camping essentials; Suzy shows up with a portable record player, a suitcase full of library books (“Some of those are going to be overdue,” notes a concerned Sam upon seeing them) and a kitten in a basket. He gives her, at their meeting, a hastily gathered bunch of flowers. “Oh, thank you,” says Suzy, her habitual seriousness melting into a sunny smile that makes us see why Sam loves her.
Meanwhile, Sam’s worried Scoutmaster (Edward Norton) organizes the remaining boys at camp into “a nonviolent rescue operation”; Suzy’s parents notify the authorities, including the kindly local sheriff (Bruce Willis) with whom Suzy’s mother has been having an affair; and social services turns up, quite literally, in the person of the pale-as-moonlight Tilda Swinton, dressed in a blue uniform vaguely reminiscent of a Salvation Army worker in “Guys and Dolls.” “I’m Social Services,” she says, and you can’t imagine that this briskly efficient creature has any other name.
While the adults scurry around sorting things out and having only-in-a-Wes-Anderson-movie moments (the Scoutmaster, for example, has an aperitif in his tent, in a glass that would be at home in a Noël Coward play), the kids live out a fantasy for a little while, kissing inexpertly in a moonlit cove. Their idyll comes to an end, as all such romantic escapades must, and the movie does, too, with Sam and Suzy gazing at each other. They’re not particularly older or wiser; they just look at each other without knowingness — which, at 12, is exactly how it should be.
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Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or firstname.lastname@example.org