Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by Jeremy Dawson, Scott Rudin, Wes Anderson, Steven M. Rales
Written by Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola
Narrated by Bob Balaban
Starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography by Robert Yeoman
Editing by Andrew Weisblum
Studio American Empirical Pictures, Indian Paintbrush, Scott Rudin Productions
Distributed by Focus Features
Running time 94 minutes
As much as I hate the concept of comparing things to point out weakness in one or the other, it is an undeniably effective notion in concrete science and, I suppose, aesthetic review. As such, I’d like to start this review, (and subtle reveal my respect-dislike interpersonal relationship with Shakespeare) by saying had Shakespeare experienced Moonrise Kingdom, then I’m not so sure he would have even the nerve to let his renowned Romeo and Juliet even be published.
For me, I believe Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom achieved what I expected out of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, knowing it is a regarded masterpiece before delving into its content. (But again, I don’t hold Shakespeare, or any artist, to fulfilling my or anyone’s expectations at the cost of his own expression.) In retrospect, I deem Moonrise Kingdom‘s content to fit into three particular categories: romance, coming-of-age, and adventure. Yet, with Wes Anderson’s distinct influence, I can’t help but feel this nearly indescribable opinion (but I’ll try) that tells me at the same time, there was no romance, coming-of-age, or adventure aspects, really. As a side-note, I think it’s worth mentioning for referential purposes that have yet to watch any of Wes Anderson’s other works besides Fantastic Mr. Fox, yet his stylistic work seems so very conspicuous to me. His intent to express love in such innovative, unimaginable ways. The way characters interact, even, is fantastically unheard. While ninety-nine percent of the time, I am adoring the presentation of it all, one percent of the time I am thrown off enough to see it as almost unrealistic. Upon their first encounter, main characters Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) do not exchange familiarities, but rather, express them.
“What kind of bird are you?”
Is love capable of being exampled by something as simple as conversing comfortably and amiably with someone the moment you meet him or her? Is love something as simple to be discovered by two twelve-year-old children?
Before delving into that inconclusive affair, find it necessary to finish addressing the portrayal of our main characters, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop. With a hybrid culture-time shock as my fallback, I struggle viewing the two as twelve-year-olds, or even any points of teenage-hood, given their just about complete maturity.
“I love you but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“It’s possible I may wet the bed by the way. Later, I mean. I wish I didn’t have to mention it but just in case. I don’t want to make you be offended.”
More so than the projected actors on screen, I see the essence of adulthood, the manner in which we, grown, nostalgically reflect on our youth, unable to avoid sweetening the portrayal with playful diction meant to suit the joy of youth. And in that sense, I see the essence of Wes Anderson in the film itself, quite clearly.
At an early point in the film, Sam unintentionally disregards Suzy’s feeling by laughing after she shows him the book titled, “Coping with the Very Troubled Child” that her parents read for advisement. From my upbringing, this is the most standard reaction I know from the young, so, the characters’ personalized with near-complete maturity from that point onwards leaves me with stifled wonders of inconsistency. But especially so, it leaves me with hints of jealousy. That level of quirkiness and awkwardness even apparent in the children, do I have to travel back in time to 1965 New England to see that with my own eyes and hear it with my own ears?
At least, or for worse, the problems I know all too well from my childhood in my respective world and time are shared with the land of Moonrise Kingdom. Sam and Suzy experience their own respective but similar forms of childhood desolation, Sam being an orphan and recluse amongst his scout group and Suzy being a proclaimed delusional troublemaker, which quite naturally and unsurprisingly drive them into each other’s’ arms. For them to live resembling upbringings, it makes nothing but sense for them to form a union. Nonetheless, accolades to them for being able to discern that thing they share (that we still can’t place a name on) on their first encounter. Is this what we call a fateful encounter?
What an attraction. (In terms of romance and viewing entertainment.) Were they really in love though, or were they naturally playing into the scars of their childhoods? Fate would have itself represent the greatest of contradictions in that sense. Imagine some moments you would love to share with your partner. I imagine that some of them are similar in not the same as embraces shared by the two leads in the story.
An exchange of hand-written letters. A first kiss. A first French kiss. A self-cooked meal. A gift of self-made earrings. A nighttime story-reading that outlasts your ability to stay awake. A dance at the beach. A stripped dance at the beach. An escape. A sleeping.
Incredibly so, given this, I still can’t help but question the emotional matrimony of the two. Were they really in love or were they simply, or rather, complicatedly, playing off the side-effects of their respective and similar lonely childhoods. In the case of the latter, this movie is quite the coming-of-age film, isn’t it?
It’s tiring to keep saying this, but, debatably so. I shorten my case and say that it’s hard to say Sam and Suzy showed any growth at all through the entire film. From beginning to end, the two had one intent: to getaway together. And as romantic as that sounds and may be, it was prominently troubling for the ones who cared about them and the ones who didn’t care about them alike. There are clear-cut consequences to the actions of the two, all of which they express completely apathy towards. Sam denounces his membership to the Khaki Scouts of Camp Ivanhoe despite displaying a great mastery of the camp curriculum and necessity of implementing those curriculum techniques on his escape. He also loses the trust of his foster parents, ultimately sentencing him to juvenile refuge. Suzy drives her family further into misimpressions of her as a, put lightly, “troubled child.” In these conditions, their complete disregard for anything other than each other isn’t startling. But for Sam, these conditions change. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) both have their respective one-to-ones with Sam, conversations that I personally felt were enough to tug on heartstrings quite strongly. Sam felt otherwise. Or more appropriately, he didn’t feel at all. Disapprovingly so, Sam and Suzy’s unyielding elopement put every character into the hands of danger. And for some, drama and danger. That’s double trouble right there, ladies and gentlemen. And well, if that lack of comprehending how you are responsible for your own actions isn’t immaturity, then you’re wrong and it is. So, let’s bring back the main question. Coming-of-age, did they even grow at all as characters?
Wait, weren’t they mature enough as it is? How could they grow anymore?
Ah whatever, isn’t this just what young love is? Stupid and blind.
Wait, when did we conclude that they were actually in love?
We didn’t. And they aren’t. Are they?
What is love?
For the most part, I’m done with my inconclusive coverage of the two main characters. I’d like to talk about the rest of the cast, because, truthfully, the side characters were just as entertaining to watch, if not more so. Through Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Walt Bishop (Bill Murray), and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand), we receive perhaps the most engaging expressionism. They are the characters that are reacting to this controlled adventure of existentialism and love. Scout Master Ward faces his crisis of identity, first alluded to his own scouts questions him as to what he considers his job (to which he initially answers his profession as a math teacher and then refutes by saying, “This,” referring to his duty as their scout master), as he loses his first scout, and then the totality of his scouts, and then is stripped of his Scout Master rank by Scout Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel), and then finally defines his character by saving Scout Commander Pierce from a burning tent and subsequently leads the entirety of the scout camp, Fort Lebanon, to safety from the vicious storm. Meanwhile, Captain Sharp’s faces his own ordeal as his authority is question throughout the film by Walt Bishop, who gradually becomes aware of a potential affair between his wife and Captain Sharp, and in the end by the social services officer (Tilda Swinton). His one-to-one conversation with Sam also reveals his similar life-long loneliness and he also acknowledges his intellectual inferiority to Sam.
“It’s been proven by history: all mankind makes mistakes.”
As for Mr. and Mrs. Bishop, they relationship is conversely portrayed to Sam and Suzy’s romantic endeavor. As they struggle with the issue of finding their daughter, they also face coming to terms with their whittling relationship with each other.
I was somewhat joking before when I mentioned travelling back in time to this kingdom to experience the level of quirky awkwardness, but now I’m nowhere as willing, if even a little. The story is fantastical but it presents itself to show similar strife. Are Sam and Suzy using love as a mechanism for escape from their scarred juvenescence? Is Scout Master Ward hanging onto the occupation of Scout Master simply to have an identity? How much more emotional unified are Mr. and Mrs. Bishop compared to Sam and Suzy? What does Captain Pierce live for, having acknowledged his inferiorities? What do the characters know of other than what their lives on New Penzance Island has force upon them? What is their Moonrise Kingdom? Even though I pose these all as questions, I don’t mean to say the movie failed to close these ends. Varying by viewer, none, some, all of these were answered to a completely satisfactory extent. I myself feel that if there were loose-ends, they were appropriately left untied and were enjoyable thought provoking.
All in all, Wes Anderson and all else who contributed to the film present a wonderfully entertaining story. A romantic escape that concludes with a most exciting and climactic finale, offering a storm of bewildering wonders all throughout. Additionally, more than adequately accompanied by fascinating cinematography, amazing compositions, and delightful acting.
Moonrise Kingdom may only traverse the boundaries of New Penzance Island, but it is an adventure of a film, leaving you open-minded to finding your own kingdom.
*I may have not been able to mention the other scouts in the movie much, but they were definitely one of the most entertaining parts of the film, especially in the latter half.
*Favorite quote: “What did I just say? That’s my fee. I’m keeping the nickels… Okay, they can have the tennis ball can.”