Moonrise Kingdom has a sense of playful fable-making
Directed by Wes Anderson. Starring Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, and Edward Norton. Rated PG. Opens Friday, June 1, at the Park Theatre
The world of Wes Anderson is so precisely his own, you practically need a passport to visit. This time, the creator of Rushmore and The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou has constructed his dollhouse of a movie on a remote New England island called New Penzance.
A Gilbert and Sullivan air of primly arranged gaiety hangs over the affair, set in the 1960s (hence all the smoking) and centred on the troubled Bishop family. Actually, the music is dominated by Hank Williams and English composer Benjamin Britten, whose opera about Noah and the great flood shows up repeatedly. A hurricane is about to erupt, as predicted by Bob Balaban, the gorgeously shot film’s red-suited narrator. And this inclement weather doubles for the storm of adolescence to orphaned boy scout Sam (Jared Gilman) and grumpy 12-year-old Suzy (played by newcomer Kara Hayward, whose asymmetrical face makes her resemble a Lynda Barry cartoon sprung to life—or sort of life).
These mumbling kids aren’t real actors, especially when shoved up against Ed Norton as Sam’s frazzled scoutmaster, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand as Suzy’s parents, and Bruce Willis as the island policeman who is having a not-so-secret affair with Suzy’s mom. Not that the grownups do much except run around like Keystone Kops when our preteen lovers attempt to escape the constraints of social expectation.
Anderson’s infinitely artificial style somehow permits him to approach the incipient sexuality of puppy love with unexpected honesty. The themes of waning childhood and parental betrayal are explored with more depth and richer humour in The Royal Tenenbaums, but Moonrise shares with The Fantastic Mr. Fox—the director’s animated venture—a sense of playful fable-making that can disarm skepticism. Here, it at least comes together for a satisfying finish.
Music fans should stay in-country for the end-credit sequence, which dissects Alexandre Desplat’s insinuating score in a manner that would make Benjamin Britten (or Button) exceedingly proud.
Watch the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom.