It has been five long years since Wes Anderson’s last (non-animated) film, but it was well worth the wait. The writer/director is the master of telling tall tales of broken families and flawed characters through dry humor, breathtaking sets, nostalgic music and vibrant colors, and his latest effort is no different. Moonrise Kingdom is vintage Anderson and a breath of fresh air in a summer inundated with big budgets and CGI.
Anderson journeys into the minds of two young lovebirds in 1965…and I really do mean young. A skinny, four-eyed 12-year-old orphan khaki scout named Sam Shakusky (a snarky, remarkable performance from Jared Gilman) sneaks into the girls’ dressing room of a play at a local church and falls for the raven played by Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). The two write each other for months before deciding to run away from the small New England town they live in. The two children’s disappearance warrants a search party headed by Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), scout master Randy (a stellar performance from an eccentric Edward Norton) and Suzy’s troubled parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).
The frantic search for Sam and Suzy allows the director to open up fresh wounds and display past scars, especially through the troubled marriage of Walt and Laura Bishop. Anderson’s afflicted, thought-provoking characters may not do or say very much (which is typical), but a little goes a long way in his films, most notably the masterful scene that has Murray’s vacant stare at the ceiling as his unfaithful wife tells him, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself,” to which he responds with a infinitely profound, “Why?”
While the climax involving a hurricane is overcrowded, the storm ultimately clears the clouded characters and their problems to provide us with one of the best films of the year. Moonrise Kingdom is a remarkable achievement that only shows us that while Anderson may have been away for years, he never lost his craft. The film’s innocence, characters, music, art and dry humor is worthy of an escape of our own to the theater.