Sunday, July 29, 2012

Moonrise Kingdom

by Pa Rock
Citizen Film Critic

They were twelve-years-old and they were in love.

Sam was an orphan living in foster care and camping out with a local youth group called the "Khaki Scouts."   He was an accomplished outdoorsman, but socially awkward and not readily accepted by the other scouts.

Suzy also had issues of awkwardness.  She was the daughter of a pair of local attorneys.  Suzy was a difficult child whose parents were reading up on the topic of problem children in an attempt to deal with her.

Sam and Suzy met one night as she was preparing to play a raven in a church play about Noah's Ark.  He inadvertently stumbled into the dressing room where she and the other girl birds were getting into their costumes and make-up, and although only a few lines were exchanged between the two, the chemistry was obvious.  Sam and Suzy corresponded secretly for several months.  It was through that correspondence that  their love developed and they decided to run away together.

And so they ran away, escaping a world where they were judged by others and entering a realm where they could be themselves and enjoy each other's company.    Sam and Suzy walked across the island that was home to both, playing in the surf, camping, and learning a few of the basics of physical love.  Their clumsy journey of self-discovery also happened to coincide with one of the worst storms of the latter half of the twentieth century.

The year was 1965.

This is a quirky story that thrives on the talents of two ensemble casts - one adult, and the other juvenile.  The adult cast is comprised of some of the biggest names in the film industry.  Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, and Harvey Keitel all give the types of performances that audiences have come to expect from actors of their caliber - and they flourish in their roles under the superb direction of Wes Anderson.

The other cast is a group of young people, many of whom I suspect will go on to be familiar names in film.  Jared Gilman is Sam and Kara Hayward is Suzy.  Both are perfect in their roles as emotionally troubled, yet surprisingly resilient, young adolescents.  There are also the boys who make up the scout troop and the three who play Suzy's younger brothers.  I was reminded several times of the kids who formed the earlier cinematic gang known as The Goonies - although in this film the adults were often as goony as the kids!

Moonrise Kingdom is surprisingly good.  It has about run its course in the theatres, but it will make a great rental for one of those nights when you are seeking something with exceptional acting and a good story  - a tale that will impart a sense of satisfaction long after the final credits roll. 

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