Susan Granger's review of 'Moonrise Kingdom'
Perhaps because of their dry, whimsical, bittersweet wistfulness, Wes Anderson's eccentric fantasy films ("Bottle Rocket," "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Darjeeling Limited," "Fantastic Mr. Fox") are a guilty pleasure.
On an idyllic island off New England's Narragansett Bay in September, 1965, two alienated, rebellious 12 year-olds fall in love and decide to run away together. Wearing his coonskin cap, orphaned outcast Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is tired of being bullied by Khaki Scout Troop 55 at Camp Ivanhoe, while sullen Suzy Bishop (Kara Howard) persistently peers at the world through binoculars and needs to escape from her family: three younger brothers, morose father (Bill Murray) and harried mother (Frances McDormand), who is having an affair with the local sheriff, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis).
As intrepid, idealistic Sam and Suzy hike through the rolling fields and craggy ravines, following a Native American Harvest Migration trail, and set up their sanctuary camp on a deserted beach by a magical cove that they dub Moonrise Kingdom, a violent storm is brewing off-shore. Meanwhile in the tiny community of New Penzance, their alarming absence initiates an exhaustive search by the colorfully caricatured adults who are, supposedly, in charge, like Captain Sharp, Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Commander Pierce (Harvey Keitel) and authoritative Social Services (Tilda Swinton).
Subtly scripted by Roman Coppola and director Wes Anderson, it's meticulously stylized. Like Benjamin Britten's "The Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra," which is often referenced, Anderson creates distinctive component parts, then artfully blends them into a fancifully conceived cinematic ensemble, propelled by precocious, if flawed young people, whose resonant, romantic adventure is chronicled by idiosyncratic, visually spectacular tracking shots.
Newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Howard exemplify the angry, bewildered innocence of adolescence, while the Narrator (Bob Balaban) clarifies geographical details and historical background. Among the decorative atmospheric details are pup tents custom-made by a historical reenactment company and a 1952 Spartanette trailer.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Moonrise Kingdom" is a tender, melancholy, nostalgic 9, concluding with a dedication to Anderson's girlfriend, writer Juman Malouf.