Moonrise Kingdom functions as a fairy tale bludgeoned by insecurities of adolescence. Perhaps that description relates to most of Wes Anderson’s filmography. But criticisms of repetition have plagued Anderson for years now. And while Moonrise Kingdom strikes me as a sort of compromise between Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the film stands on its own for its compelling treatment of the nature of youth and the subsequent troubles of adulthood. The film is Anderson’s most emotionally dense picture to date, as well as his most impeccably crafted.
With an opening sequence that breaks down the symphony arrangement of “Playful Pizzicato”, one cannot help but admire the rich aesthetic on display in Moonrise Kingdom. Anderson’s staple techniques are dispensed one after the other within the picture’s first fifteen minutes, prompting an uneasy anxiety from the first act. But Anderson is simply arranging his pieces, wherein he is providing crucial narrative cues that he will be utilizing throughout the picture. It comes as somewhat of a surprise to have seen such a bombastic prelude followed by a fairly simple narrative.
As an orphan boy named Sam (Jared Gilman) and misfit girl named Suzy (Kara Haywood) wander a New England isle in 1965, they’re sought after by the girl’s detached mother and father, the boy’s scout troop, and the island’s lone police chief. A storm is quickly approaching and everything reaching a tipping point as Sam and Suzy carry their emotional baggage with melancholic awareness. In my favorite scene in the film, Suzy’s admiration for Dickensian literature prompts her to exhibit a tinge of jealously for Sam’s upbringing – Sam bluntly replies with “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about”. The direct response expresses the two opposing forces within Sam, as his growing love for Suzy confronts the harsh childhood.
Despite the deep-rooted sense of sadness found in Moonrise Kingdom, the picture’s sentimentality and yearning desire for love and acceptance inspires more glee than gloom. Anderson’s immaculately lit sets provide the usual yellow and brown hues that inspire a lighter tone. It serves as an interesting contrast to Richard Ayoade’s 2010 film Submarine. Both Moonrise Kingdom and Submarine dwell on similar insecurities with adolescence, but their difference rests in their formal execution. The rigid symmetry in Anderson’s images carry an air of distinction compared to the whirlwind frenzy of Ayoade’s visual approach. Regardless, I’m in love with both pictures and would make for an interesting companion viewing.