Moonrise Kingdom follows the adventures of two young adolescents who find comfort in their love for each other as they try to escape from a world that cannot allow them to be themselves.
Director Wes Anderson creates an idealized world of Americana that captivates the viewer like a Norman Rockwell painting. The film is set in 1965, right before the cultural chaos of the late 1960s and 70s. Anderson displays flawless consistency of artistic vision in every detail of color and composition throughout the film, and the viewer is completely absorbed into the bygone culture of the United States’ Atlantic coast region.
However, there is much more to this film than simple nostalgia and a well-coordinated palate of colors. On the surface there are neatly pressed scout uniforms and bobby socks worn with saddle shoes. Yet Anderson brilliantly hints at the passions and desperations boiling under the surface of this controlled environment. Just as Camelot had crumbled with JFK’s death in the months before, the adults in the film—the overwhelmed social worker, the dissatisfied housewife, the lonely sheriff—are disintegrating, struggling to hold themselves together and to keep up appearances. Like the storm brewing in the distance, the winds of change will hit the shore sooner or later. Only the children are wise enough to run away and find a way to be themselves.
The film also features wonderfully subtle performances from the cast. The kids are especially natural, and Edward Norton plays the befuddled scoutmaster with true heart, towing the line between being both relatable and pathetic. Bill Murry, Frances McDormand, Bruce Willis, and Tilda Swinton also make impressive appearances.
Spiritual Bottom Line: This movie offers an artistic, nostalgic look at the contrast between internal and external realities.
Quality Grade: A+