Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom

*****

Reviewed by: Anne-Katrin Titze

Wes Anderson's worldly and majestic Moonrise Kingdom, which opened this year's Cannes Film Festival, bestows upon us a hermetic little island universe, off the coast of New England in the year 1965. It comes complete with its own narrator, visible and audible, speaking to the camera, Our Town style - Bob Balaban equipped with a red coat, green cap, duck shoes, Fair Isle mittens and a wind-measuring device - a man who knows the island's history, future, wildlife and weather.

Anderson's latest film can be read as a synthesis of his two previous works. It shares the children's book quality of Fantastic Mr. Fox and the adventure escape quest of The Darjeeling Limited, which was also co-written by Roman Coppola. Two 12-year-olds, Suzy and Sam, played with real 12-year-old charm, not Hollywood training, by newcomers Kara Hayward (with cerulean eyeshadow) and Jared Gilman (with coonskin cap), decide to run away together. Why (they are in love, nobody else likes them) and how (he on the lam from his khaki scout summer camp and foster family horrors, she escaping her three little brothers and parents who think she is "very troubled") tells us just as much about them as what they carry along on their adventure. Anderson is the only filmmaker who makes you concerned about suitcases. Remember the special edition 11-piece Louis Vuitton luggage set with the little animals painted on them in The Darjeeling Limited? Of course you do.

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Moonrise Kingdom acquaints us with the pre-teen version of it. Anyone who ever plotted to run away as a child can relate. "Let's make an inventory", Sam says to Suzy, at their first rest stop on a cliff in the forest, when he sees what she brought along. Naturally, she packed her tabby kitten in a basket. Her little brother's record player, borrowed for 10 days or longer, plus a record (Le Temps de L'Amour by Fran├žoise Hardy), her six favorite library books (all invented titles by Anderson with covers by different artists), lefty scissors, binoculars, and ten cans of cat food. Sam, who is an experienced scout, and a gentleman, has the rest: a canoe with a carved raccoon, a yellow tent with painted animal shadows, a frying pan, mustard for their hot dogs. He brings her flowers when they meet and makes her earrings out of barbed fishhooks and shiny green beetles. In other words, all's well here.

Not so with the adults. Suzy's parents, Mr and Mrs Bishop live in a lighthouse at Summer's End, that is shot like a cut open dolls' house by Anderson's long-time collaborator Robert Yeoman, so that we can delight in all the different rooms with their intricately maritime and timelessly peculiar design, and the shenanigans the family is up to.

Bill Murray, who plays Suzy's father, is exclusively seen in various Madras patchwork pants, a style the actor brought with him to Cannes, where he unconventionally wore all Madras plaid for the premiere of the movie. Frances McDormand, mostly in wellies, floral dresses and windbreaker, is the insouciant mother, who has an affair with the local sheriff, Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis, with beautiful heartfelt confusion) and seems to juggle everything quite splendidly. We find out about the affair together with Suzy, who watches through her binoculars how the two adults share a cigarette by the lighthouse cliff, not exactly Bette Davis and Paul Henreid in Now Voyager, but all she and we must know.

Bruce Willis, who seems to elegantly make a theme of his status as newcomer in the Wes Anderson universe, by admitting that he doesn't understand what is going on at the start of the film, later embraces the pre-politically correct world, rounding up the little boy scouts from Troop 55 Camp Ivanhoe for his search mission, calling them: "The little one, the skinny guy, and the one with the eye-patch" to their faces.

Edward Norton, another Anderson-world greenhorn, incorporates all pre-1970s boy scout masters and maths teachers and rolls them into one big cognac snifter holding, plaid tent dwelling, log keeping, corn carving, ultimately very caring human being.

The cove the children run away to is called Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet on the map, and they rename it Moonrise Kingdom. Adam Stockhausen's production design and Kasia Walicka Maimone's work with the costumes cannot be praised highly enough. Just like the children, they create a new kingdom for cinema-lovers to come and visit. As one example, the glasses alone, that almost every character wears, are chosen with unequaled precision.

There is so much to see, hear, and feel on this enchanted island: A church performance of Noye's Fludde by Benjamin Britten with a boatload of children in animal costumes escaping the flood (Wes Anderson, as a child, took part in a production of it), an extremely unorthodox wedding ceremony performed by Jason Schwartzman as scout master Cousin Ben sporting Psycho-inspired policeman mirrored glasses, and a flight by night in a storm with a stern Tilda Swinton in a blue cape and red wig as a character named Social Services, in hot pursuit of the orphaned Sam.

Moonrise Kingdom is the perfect summer movie for the eternally twelve who like to travel in style.

Reviewed on: 23 May 2012
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Two children make a pact and run off, prompting the local community to go on the hunt for them.
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