REVIEW: 'Moonrise Kingdom'
Saturday, June 09, 2012
From the opening credits that move room by room through a house to an immaculate campsite perched on the edge of the water, Moonrise Kingdom is a film created by a director who understands the importance of even the smallest details. The fictional island of New Penzance is filled with nuanced characters and an intricate social tapestry, all which become richer as the film progresses.
The ensemble cast that Anderson has pulled together for Moonrise Kingdom is superb, with each character a cog in the film's clockwork, ticking away until the time comes for them to moves the gears of the story along. Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand perfectly embody their small-town characters, each happily contented to live in their own small world until Suzy Bishop and Sam Shakusky, two runaway children, turn the quiet lives of the inhabitants of New Penzance upside down.
A film with a cast that includes names like Willis, Norton, Murray and McDormand would usually tell a story that focuses squarely on the characters played by actors of their stature, but Moonrise Kingdom's story is that of those two runaway children. Anderson found two spectacular talents in Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman. The preteens are not only immensely gifted as actors, but they approach their characters in an unassuming way, giving the audience the feeling that we're watching two kids who believe they are in love playing out life as if they were adults. Hayward and Gilman each have just one item — Moonrise Kingdom — on their IMDb resumés, allowing them to perform unburdened by any previous roles. The audience only knows them as Suzy and Sam, social outcasts who may not completely understand the other, but know almost instantly that they belong together.
Films don't often rely on child actors to carry their stories. You end up with movies like Hugo where the actor playing Hugo looked like he was lost the entire time or Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close where the actor playing Oskar basically crashed his way through the movie, substituting quantity of performance for quality of performance. Hayward and Gilman are the opposite of those cases. In Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has coached the two young talents to performances that are eccentric yet confident. There are adult actors getting to paid to be in movies right now who haven't gifted filmgoers with characters as strong as Hayward and Gilman's Suzy and Sam.
In typical Anderson fashion, Moonrise Kingdom drifts in and out of a retro dream state, colors becoming washed out while accompanied by a soundtrack that invokes a pseudo nostalgia, a nostalgia for a time and a place that we've never actually known. Anderson excels in this arena, fine-tuning over the years his ability to delve into the hearts and memories of audiences and bind them to the story he has to tell.
Moonrise Kingdom is a quiet masterpiece, a gem hidden in a summer season filled with movies that have a ton of flash but little substance. We're lucky to have found this gem.