Review in a Hurry: Ah, young love. An “emotionally disturbed” orphan ditches his scouting troop to run away with the object of his adolescent obsession, a local “troubled” girl. This year’s opener for the Cannes Film Festival, the delightful Moonrise Kingdom marks a career high for offbeat auteur Wes Anderson. Scout’s honor.
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The Bigger Picture: The Fantastic Mr. Anderson bookends his latest film with lessons in orchestration, as V.O. and musical accompaniment illustrate how families of instruments create a textured, thematically unified composition. It’s an apt metaphor for the pitch-perfect symphony that is Moonrise, which alternates movements of trademark Anderson whimsy and disarming sweetness as it builds to a grand crescendo.
The setting is an idyllic island off the coast of New England in late summer of 1965. Twelve-year-old, four-eyed Sam (Jared Gilman) disappears from his Khaki Scout camp, led by Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). Fulfilling a secret pact, Sam meets up with his precocious crush, Suzy (Kara Hayward), who wants to escape her stifling dollhouse existence and attorney parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray).
As various authorities conduct a rescue mission, the two runaways navigate the rocky coastline and fumble their way through first love. In one hilarious, oddly touching scene, Sam pierces Suzy’s lobes with fishhooks, so she can wear the beetle earrings he’s made for her. Meanwhile, a deadly storm brews at sea, and its violent landfall threatens to throw everyone and everything off-course.
If all this sounds insufferably idiosyncratic, it’s not. Yes, Anderson is known for cinematic gimmicks and connect-the-quirks characters that sometimes keep audiences at an emotional distance, but here his style complements the substance. He doesn’t sacrifice authenticity for his touches of magical realism—instead, his comedic visual flair and gorgeous ’60s production design provide perfect illustrations for this kooky storybook romance.
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Gilman and Hayward are terrific together, capturing the heightened intensity and immediacy of pubescence—it’s funny because it’s painfully true. They get great support from the adults, notably Norton as the overzealous troop leader and McDormand as the unhappy wife philandering with the sheriff (Bruce Willis).
The 180—a Second Opinion: With so many stars in the cast, the film can’t let them all shine equally, so fans might be disappointed by the smaller roles for Tilda Swinton and Harvey Keitel.
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