Summer Movie Slam: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

Remember when you were young and in love? I know it’s tough, but think really hard.

I’m talking about when you were just a kid and you fell in love for the very first time. It was three parts romance, two parts awkward, all mixed together to make a magical cocktail that made you feel like you were flying. As simple as life is for a child, first love was the thing that made it seem whimsical, like the stories that you read in a book.

“We’re in love. We just want to be together.”

Did anyone else get married for the first time when they were about 8 years old? We had the ceremony in the backyard of her house. My sister acted as the ordained minister and the aisle we walked down was a Slip-‘N’-Slide. After we said ‘I do’ we ran and slid down the hill into a pool of muddy water. We figured out the service would be much more exciting if we included the things we both loved about water parks.

What brought back this flood of memories, you ask? It was this line spoken by Cousin Ben in ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’

“I can’t offer you a legally binding union. It won’t hold in the state, the county or frankly any courtroom in the world due to your age, lack of license, and failure to get parental consent. But the ritual does carry a very important moral weight within yourselves.”

‘Moonrise Kingdom’ is the story of two children that fall in love in the summer of ’65. 11 year old Sam Shakusky and 11 year old Suzy Bishop meet backstage at a church play. Sam is in town for scout camp, and Suzy is one of the many girls in the local production. Sam asks ‘What kind of bird are you?’ ‘I’m a raven.’ Immediately, Sam is smitten. As he leaves, Suzy’s friend whispers ‘He likes you.’

Suzy and Sam spend the entire year writing to one another, and over time they realize that the only thing that they have in the entire world is each other. When Sam returns to Suzy’s hometown for another summer of scout camp, he decides to be daring, and flees his campsite to run away with the girl of his dreams.

The film centers around the relationship between Sam and Suzy and their desire to be with one another, but it would be incomplete without the adults that surround these two characters. There is  Scout Master Ward (played by Edward Norton), who is doing is best to find his lost scout while also maintaining control over his remaining troop, Captain Sharp (played by Bruce Willis), who begins to admire the spirit of the escapees, and Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) who do nothing but worry about their “troubled” daughter. None of the “grown-ups” can understand why these two young people are acting so insane. That’s because they’ve forgotten what it’s like to be a 12 year old and to be head-over-heels crazy about that someone.

Really, that is what Writer and Director Wes Anderson is trying to do through ‘Moonrise Kingdom’: remind us what it was like when we were young and foolishly devoted to one another, and that is really what makes it such a brilliant film. We are again placed into a world where the childhood fantasy seems alive within us.

In a world where we would normally be standing beside the authoritarian guardians, we find ourselves rooting for these two crazy kids to end up with one another. Why is that? Could it be that there is still something inside us that admires a child’s innocence and passion? I think Mr. Anderson is on to something here.

In reality, it’s one of the reasons we still go to the movies. We look to be amazed, to reminisce, to feel something we haven’t in a long time. We want to be a kid again, and ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ let’s us do that.

There are some people that have to be given credit for making ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ such a great film. The first of these is Wes Anderson. In my mind, this director who has been known for a strong cult following from Indie-film fans, has truly made a masterpiece, and his best film to date. Anderson’s vision for every aspect of a film, the writer, the art direction, the cinematography, and the performances, unite harmoniously in a creative movie with one common purpose. We see aspects of his previous films (such as “The Royal Tenenbaums”, “Rushmore”, and even “The Fantastic Mr. Fox”) throughout the film, but he has taken all of their strengths and none of their weaknesses, putting all the nuggets of Indie magic into a delightful hour-and-a-half.

What I’m trying to say is, I hope Anderson gets some serious recognition this time around. I’m looking at you, Academy.

The next group of people that deserves to take a bow are all of the seasoned veteran actors that play the supporting characters within ‘Moonrise Kingdom.’ Norton, Willis, Murray, McDormand, Swinton, Schwartzman, and Keitel are all pitch perfect in this movie, walking the tight-rope between absurdity and authentic emotion. I have no problem in saying that this is the best ensemble performance of 2012 so far. I mean what’s going to compete with it? Magic Mike? Please.

Finally, and this cannot go without saying (and many have written reviews on this film without saying it) but the young actors in this movie are fantastic. Suzy, Sam, and the members of the Khaki Scouts of North America take this movie from good to great, and they are the catalyst that makes the film both authentic and special. I don’t know where they found Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, but I’m sure glad that they did, because these two actors are truly gifted (especially Hayward. Gosh, she was good.) But the scouts of Troop 55 are so funny and so sweet that you can’t help but love them.

“Can we loan them the nickels? I’m concerned about their future.”

My Note: This is the best movie from the first half of the year. Go and see it before they pull it out of  your local theater, because it is truly a hidden gem.

My Grade: A+ (the second film on The Sorkin Notes to receive this honor.)

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One thought on “Summer Movie Slam: ‘Moonrise Kingdom’

  1. […] that I would consider to be “contenders” are ‘The Dark Knight Rises’, ‘Moonrise Kingdom’, ‘The Master’, and ‘Argo’), and the second being that since our last post, […]

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