A Troubled Young Person's Guide to Themes of Defiant Youth (ala Antonioni) with Kubrickian Stylistics (as interpreted by Wes Anderson)
Full Metal Jackasses
Moonrise Kingdom might be my favorite Wes Anderson film yet. The films of Wes Anderson have gotten more and more juvenile, regressing in sensibility, but progressive in terms of connecting with a child-like world-view. Like his dark companion in film, Tim Burton, Anderson chooses subjects and styles that appeal to his inner kid, pulling in favorite things from his growing up years to include in his films. But, unlike Burton, he doesn't concentrate on the dark and morose, focusing instead on a sense of wonder, even if in his world-view the adult act like children and the children try to act like adults.
So, Moonrise Kingdom, co-written by Anderson and Roman Coppola (Francis' iconoclastic kid), set in the mid-60's and involving an East coast island community. There are two factions, the authorities, represented by island law enforcement—Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and the troop leader of a group of "Khaki Scouts"—Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton). There is a dysfunctional family, the Bishops (led by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand). Both factions represent authority, and empty authority at that. Their worlds are controlled, regimented, but still subject to outside forces and acts of God, like weather—there's a storm approaching as the film's exposition expert (played by Bob Balaban) is only too quick to report.
Into this mix come a pair of star-crossed likers, outcasts from both houses, like Romeo and Juliet. Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan with enough issues that his foster parents no longer want him; Suzy (Kara Hayward) is the oldest child of the Bishops and already is labeled as a "very troubled child." They meet at an amateur production of Benjamin Britten's "Noye's Fludde"*—he's on a scout outing, she plays a raven. They begin corresponding in secret, and then both escape their cloisters, he from the Khaki Scouts camp, she from her family home. They live off the land, he with his survival skills and supplies, she with her books and records, a mutually dependent family with different roles. It doesn't take long for their disappearance to be discovered and the search parties form, the police led by Sharp and the Scouts, led by Ward, with the Bishops poking, prodding and threatening lawsuits. The kids lead them all a not-so-merry chase, and there are casualties along the way. But, the fugitives press on, despite the fact that, on an island, they can never really escape.
It's a romantic's version of 'the barefoot bandit" story, but without the issues of ego, narcissism, and general public nuisance, and Anderson couches it all in an idiosyncratic format with scrupulous Kubrickian stylistic fluorishes—the measured tracking shots, the hand-held shots of freedom and chaos; the stylized expressionless acting, the structured mise en scene, perfectly balanced on a central fulcrum. On top of that, it's hilarious, with dialogue that's formal, distinct, played absolutely straight, betraying no irony, delivered in a deadpan lack of elevation.
It's charming-no wonder these kids want out, left to their own devices. They still want structure, just their own structure, and, although self-imposed outcasts, seem far more together than those of their "betters."
Fun, odd, and rebellious in Anderson's over-stated understated fashion. Wonder what he'll do when he grows up.
Moonrise Kingdom is a Full-Price Ticket.
* Britten is the classical composer-thread rolling throughout Moonrise Kingdom, and his "Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" is the starting theme for the film's opening sequence—a gliding, tracking tour of the Bishop's house. They'll also do a version of it over Alexander Desplat's closing music over the credits.