All the trailers for Moonrise Kingdom had a dreamlike, trippy quality to them. The music, especially, made me feel like I was either on some happy drug or had found Narnia in the 60s. My mom asked me to repeat the title to her three times when I told her what movie I was seeing, and she was still confused. So was I. When my best friend said “I need some creativity! Can we please see Moonrise Kingdom?!” I had no idea what to expect, but I was intrigued, so we went. This is definitely one of those movies that divides people, simply based on whether you buy the idea of such a kooky world. You’re either completely turned off, or want to know more. From the very beginning, it’s obvious this movie is not your normal time at the cinema. Yet it still displays so many of the lovable movie elements through these awkward and silly and sweet characters.
At the heart of the movie are Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), two teenagers who run away to be together. Sam is an ex-boy scout, so he knows how to camp and hide their tracks. Suzy is a depressed young girl, but she seems at peace with Sam, and loves her books. She reads out loud at night until Sam falls asleep. Sam and Suzy’s departure sets off a hunt along their island of New Penzance. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) reports Sam’s disappearance to the police, and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) begins the search. After discovering Sam is an orphan, and that his latest foster family does not want him back, they seem to soften towards his circumstances. Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) soon discover that their daughter is missing. After finding a box of letters Sam and Suzy traded for a year, they connect the dots.
The search for Sam and Suzy and the kids’ interactions with each other and the adults makes the movie sweet, funny, silly and awkward all at once. Sam’s fellow boy scouts are a great group of kids who lighten the movie considerably. There is a subplot with the adults, but it’s not entirely necessary aside from giving them more scenes. I love the adult actors, but the kids are undeniably and rightfully the focus. Sam and Suzy are two messed up kids, for different reasons, but they connect. And that connection keeps them going, so much so that they try to run away, even though both seem to know their time is limited. Yet they keep trying, and their scenes are filled with genuine awkwardness, friendship, and young love.
This movie was written and directed by Wes Anderson, known for The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Unlimited, and Fantastic Mr. Fox. He clearly has specific visions for his films and sticks to them, no matter what. This is a sweet comedy underneath all the other stuff. But the other stuff is also entertaining. The score is one of the best things about this movie. It’s the perfect silly, otherworldly tone for this dreamlike movie.
Moonrise Kingdom is not for everyone, but the nice thing is, you can tell just by the trailer whether or not it’s for you. For those who are curious, it’s a sweet, lighthearted movie for the summer that will leave you with a smile on your face for some time.