Moonrise Kingdom

Island vacations offer a chance to escape from the relentlessness of society. I just got back from a blissful retreat at a place with a sandy beach, exuberant vegetation and some whales. And at the house where I was staying, there was an iPad, an iTouch, a laptop, two iPods, an iPhone, a Blackberry and 6 cellphones (two of which spent most of their time there in a baggie full of rice, because you’re supposed to take them out of your pocket before the wave knocks you down). Because even though it requires a hell of a lot of battery power, staying in touch is important.

Wes Anderson’s new movie Moonrise Kingdom takes place on a similar island, and although the film is set in 1965, the need to communicate while away from home is just as strong. The texts being sent in this case are written in crayon by the two young protagonists, Sam and Susie, and consist of a series of letters where they plot to run away together. Susie is a twelve-year-old “problem child” who is summering with her family on the same island where orphaned Sam is learning about nature with his troop of Khaki scouts. In adolescence, the crime of not fitting in brings the harshest punishment, and Susie and Sam find kindred spirits in their oddness.

The two young travelers (I hesitate to say lovers because they are only 12 years old, but they do spend a fair amount of time in their underwear. But they’re mostly reading or dancing so it’s fairly appropriate) run away together and go on a journey that involves the entire island in the search. Susie lugs along a portable record player and a suitcase full of stolen library books, which proves that the inclination to bring music and a good story on a trip with you has been around for years. You just need more chargers now.

If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson’s films, you’ll know to expect bizarre characters, offbeat hilarious humor, exquisite art direction and Bill Murray. The rest of the cast—Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban—is uniformly terrific, and the production design conjures up every campground and mildewy situpon you have ever sat upon. Anderson uses his famous cutaway set technique to show the house where Susie’s family lives and it is as spectacular as ever. The music of Benjamin Britten is used throughout the film and his Noye’s Fludde figures prominently as a metaphor for the hurricane that rages at the film’s climax.

What I didn’t expect to find was that I actually cared about Susie and Sam. The people who populate Anderson’s movie’s are usually so weird that it’s hard to feel any empathy for them – you can laugh at them, but they often feel like caricatures. This is the first time in my memory that I found one of his films moving, and it adds a depth to the film that takes it to a new level.

I predict this movie will bring about a new craze for coonskin hats. I know I want one.

Barf Bag Rating: ZERO BAGS

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