DIRECTED BY WES ANDERSON
Unlike the members of Khaki Scout troop 55, the full compliment of Wes Anderson’s cinematic compulsions are immediately present and correct in the splendid Moonrise Kingdom. With its meticulous production design, magic-realist tone, precocious kids, melancholy grown-ups, and obligatory parts for Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, the director’s latest is unmistakably Andersonian from its first slide rule frames.
But where his most recent live-action films (2004′s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and 2007′s The Darjeeling Limited) were uneven efforts, steeped in angst and disillusionment, Moonrise Kingdom—set in 1965, on the fictional New England island of New Penzance—preserves the fairytale quality of 2009′s stop-motion Fantastic Mr. Fox, and consolidates the idiosyncratic auteur’s enchanting return to form.
As for Scout troop 55, they’ve been left a man light by the escape of one Sam Shakusy (Jared Gilman), a pensive, bespectacled, 12-year-old orphan, labelled “emotionally disturbed” by his reluctant guardians. Following an epistolary courtship, Sam is joined in flight by Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), a bookish preteen beauty and kindred wounded spirit.
Together, the pair retreat into the island’s woodland interior, and eventually pitch camp at an idyllic tidal inlet where their chaste affections blossom. Meanwhile, a near-biblical storm brews offshore, and New Penzance’s adult population—including Suzy’s dysfunctional parents (Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s inept scoutmaster (Ed Norton), and the jurisdiction’s lonesome police captain (a first-rate Bruce Willis)—farcically attempt to recover the runaways.
Though most of the players are new to the filmmaker’s fastidiously orchestrated methods, their characters’ predicaments are variations on prevalent Andersonian themes. His seven features have frequently addressed adolescent ardor and debilitating mid-life malaise, but rarely in exploring those notions has Anderson struck such a beguiling balance between bitter and sweet.