MOONRISE KINGDOM (Wes Anderson, 2012)
Quirky is one undeniable term to describe filmmaker Wes Anderson's MOONRISE KINGDOM, although this is not news to Anderson's legion of followers, and if you've previously seen one or two of his films (I've only seen THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS, FANTASTIC MR. FOX, and THE DARJEELING LIMITED), you'll recognize Anderson's signature style in terms of editing, production design and even the use of strong colors, as if in a playful, childlike mood.
Young love is often invigorating. There's always a feeling of sheer thrill, of rapid heartbeat, of seemingly endless joy when girl meets boy. MOONRISE KINGDOM captures all that and more. The film actually deconstructs the usual conflicts of love stories, i.e. parental hindrance, peer pressure, personal issues like abandonment/neglect, rebellion and plays with the idea that adults are outwitted by children, wherein in the end the children's ordeal is actually a mirror of their guardians'.
Anderson transports us in a fantasy world where we are free to live out all our child inhibitions without restraint, without parental supervision, and without judgment. The children, escaped Khaki scout Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and runaway teen Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) rendezvous at an agreed time and place after a series of letter exchange under the nose of Suzy's parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) and Sam's scout master (Edward Norton). They elope like grownups in love, but the difference is their version of running away is infantile and naive, but not necessarily without honesty. To see them dance to a vinyl record playing a French song, defend each other from the Khaki scouts who pursue them, and justify their love in front of Suzy's parents and basically everybody is cinematic heaven.
The most indelible element of their brief runaway, though is their secret cove, which they named "Moonrise Kingdom". In the ensuing storm that became legendary in New England history, Moonrise Kingdom, the tidal inlet where they stayed was washed away and forever erased from the map. But this only made the story more irresistible.
But the story also reminds us of the repercussion of Sam and Suzy's reckless actions. Not only did they engage the whole island on their trail, but also they are forced to learn a thing or two about responsibility. Their travails entailed both good and bad outcome. They were too young to have been doing what they have been doing (conservatives may raise an eyebrow at the subject matter of the movie) but in the process the unresolved issues of the people involved where fleshed out in the open for resolution.
Of all the characters in the movie (and all of them are lovable, mind you), Tilda Swinton takes the crown for best named character. Sarcastically named only "Social Services", she navigates her character with a detached demeanor and a cold but comic approach. Plus, her costume is outrageously beautiful. Her telephone banter with Bruce Willis (who plays the Police Captain Sharp) is most hilarious.
Willis is in top form himself. He can do badass cop (DIE HARD and basically half his filmography), troubled individual (THE SIXTH SENSE/ UNBREAKABLE), cold and calculating villain (THE SIEGE/ THE JACKAL) and here he further proves he's also effective as quirky. He already did unconventional numerous times (DEATH BECOMES HER/ 12 MONKEYS), but here he's really into character, as a bumbling cop who despite his humility and bigheartedness (and seeming incapability), sets out to prove his effectiveness as a law enforcer.
As if the elopement and Tilda Swinton wasn't enough (yes, Tilda Swinton is a cinematic element in herself), Anderson ups the ante on the weirdness and wackiness by way of instituting a ceremonial wedding binding Suzy and Sam through an older Scout at another camp, and the officiating minister is brilliantly played by Jason Schwartzman.
If you'd look at all the physical elements, and the visual treatment of the movie, it's as if the whole story is a big game brilliantly orchestrated in a huge playground that existed in Wes Anderson's mind. Luckily, we are along for the ride. Nevertheless, the subliminal message tells us that what the kids did, running away and all isn't necessarily bad, but it isn't necessarily tolerable either. It happened, and people should not be punished just because they fell in love, but since they are basically toddlers, they must at least be guided and talked to about the error of their ways.