On a cozy island located near New England, 12-year-olds Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop have begun writing letters to one another. On the surface, Sam and Suzy appear to be much like any ordinary child their age living in a small town community. Sam is an intelligent and ingenuitive “Khaki Scout” in a local summer camp, and Suzy is a curious, binocular-wielding lover of cats. But it is here that any semblance of the ordinary ceases, as director Wes Anderson brings to life the absurd and heartwarming tale of “Moonrise Kingdom.”
Both social pariahs in their own right, Sam and Suzy conspire by letter to flee the confines of their respective dwellings with an elaborate escape plot reminiscent of “The Shawshank Redemption.” Succeeding in their flight, the two young children find themselves desperately in love, determined to elude their many pursuers lest they be separated. Their plight is further complicated by the coming of a record-breaking hurricane, and it won’t be long before the entire island is swept into the madness of it all.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is a coming-of-age tale full of ridiculous happenstance and unlikely scenarios—but it is in the midst of this cacophony that Wes Anderson breathes life into an affecting tale about what it means to grow up, to love and to live without constraint. This film bore all the tell-tale signs of Anderson’s characteristic cinematography, artistic direction and rhythm. In some ways, “Moonrise Kingdom” is an amalgamation of some of Anderson’s past work—from the quirky wit and absurdity of “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” to the philosophical self-discovery of “The Darjeeling Limited.”
The film was written by Anderson and Roman Coppola and featured an incredibly talented and familiar cast. Among the island’s many eccentric and dysfunctional inhabitants: Captain Sharp (played by Bruce Willis), Scout Master Randy Ward (played by Edward Norton) and Suzy’s parents Walt Bishop and Laura Bishop (played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand respectively). Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, the young and actor and actress who play the film’s star-crossed lovers Sam and Suzy, are both exceptional in their debut performance.
“Moonrise Kingdom” was full of all the pure and undefiled innocence of childhood. As poet William Stafford once put it, “Kids…dance before they learn there is anything that isn’t music.” This film seemed to illustrate a similar sentiment, juxtaposing the harsh dysfunctionality of Mr. and Mrs. Bishop’s marriage against the tenacious passion of the two young lovebirds.
Whatever the case, “Moonrise Kingdom” served as a simple reminder that life can blossom in unexpected ways. And though things seldom pan out the way they should, there’s something to be said for the resilience of an unfettered love and life’s immutable perpetuity. Sometimes, you just have to be a child to understand the truth of that.