I know that somewhere within “Moonrise Kingdom” is a charming and poignant coming-of-age story. Unfortunately, whatever potential it had was ruined by director/co-writer Wes Anderson, whose perplexing cinematic sensibilities betray an inability to depict realistic characters we can actually invest in. There is no truth to this film. It depicts nothing more than odd people doing odd things for very odd reasons. We’re supposed to find this funny, but was the intention to laugh with the characters or at them? It’s a moot point since I didn’t laugh at all, although I did softly chuckle with incredulity at many points. It’s actually quite telling that the film takes place on an island off the coast of New England; as is the case with the locals inhabiting it, we have a story cut off from the rest of civilization, allowed to exist in its own narrow-minded little world.
Taking place in 1965, it tells the story of two twelve-year-olds, the spectacled Sam (Jared Gilman) and the eye-shadowed Suzy (Kara Hayward), who fell in love after meeting backstage during a church play one year earlier. How and why they fell in love is anyone’s guess; during their first meeting, they do little apart from stare at each other with expressionless faces and speak in annoyingly droll monotones. Indeed, that’s how these characters always speak to each other. And oh, how I wished one of them had the ability to express an emotion. Anyway, their initial meeting led to a series of letters written and sent in secret. They then determined that they would run away together. Sam has what he believes to be the wherewithal to get them both across the island to a secluded location in the wilderness, as he’s a trained Khaki Scout with many badges to his name.
Sam – who smokes a pipe, despite being twelve – was taken in by a foster family following the demise of his birth parents. It’s precisely because of this that none of the other Scouts like him. When it’s reported that Sam has disappeared, his foster parents decide, rather nonchalantly, that they don’t want him to come back. Suzy, with her permed hair and neat dresses and shoes, has a bit of a psychotic streak, as evidenced when she stabs one of the Scouts with a pair of scissors. When she runs away, she brings with her a kitten, a mini record player, a French pop record, a series of obscure fantasy novels, and a pair of binoculars, which perpetually hang around her neck. She works towards making everyone apart from Sam despise her. This would include her parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand), who are oddballs in their own right. The mom especially; she has to communicate to her three pouty boys with a megaphone.