Sam, an orphan, has been placed with a foster family who now tell the police he is not welcome back. Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) is appropriately shocked at this cavalier attitude by someone who is supposed to be the parent figures in this boy’s life.
Sam (Jared Gillman) falls in love with Suzy (Kara Hayward) at a school play. Suzy has not received the attentive parenting she needs to be happy and healthy, so she decides to run away with Sam. It is a match made in “Moonrise Kingdom” heaven, which is a quirky sort of “Blue Lagoon” without the island paradise. Hayward is just as pretty as Brooke Shields, but finding the testosterone in the face of Sam is more difficult, which adds to the film’s peculiar charm.
Almost a “Home Alone” characterization, Gillman becomes Sam, a fascinating combination of immaturity and self-confident cool. He is precocious, but without the character to inhabit, Gillman would be just a normal 12-year-old kid. But with Anderson at the helm, Gillman creates a character of such a cool demeanor, you feel riveted to his inchoate face as he says lines like, “NO, what kind of bird are YOU?”
Just as you think the romance is over, Sam escapes by a narrow margin (some would say by cinematic intervention). In a marvelous moment of relationship-driven camaraderie, Sam’s scout troop decides to come to the rescue, Band-of-Brothers style.
Edward Norton is impressive in his role as Scoutmaster Ward, not only for his seriously executing his role as the scoutmaster of these young male minds, but also for his compassion and sincere desire for them to be well-trained and safe.
Wes Anderson has a knack for showing us attitudes and personalities that we don’t usually see in the movies. Casting Frances McDormand as Suzy’s mother is apropos considering how similar the tone of the movie is to “Fargo.”
“Moonrise Kingdom” is definitely a movie with style – almost too much style. Did the adherence to this quirky style of filmmaking rob the film of its potential? There was no music designed to lift the spirit, which is never Anderson’s intention. His purpose is to dazzle and entertain using the most unusual, two-dimensional cardboard cutout acting. It is not designed to move you, but to tickle your fancy in the funniest of ways.
Whimsical is a word that comes to mind but, thankfully, Anderson doesn't leave out the requisite, plot-driven action for a movie of this oddness to entertain us until the end. If you like Wes Anderson, you’ll love “Moonlight Kingdom.” Playing at the Angelika.
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and smoking.
Cedric Wood, Ph.D., L.P.C., is a counselor for individuals, couples and entire families.