This weekend we finally saw Wes Anderson’s new movie, Moonrise Kingdom. It had a pretty good audience, especially considering we saw it in West Springfield instead of Amherst or Northampton (non-Western-Mass folks: Amherst is a big college town, Northampton is the fauxhemian Portland-on-the-Connecticut. West Springfield is very close to Springfield, which is…you know…urban.)
I’m a Wes Anderson fanboy, so naturally I loved it. If you liked his previous movies, you’re going to like this one as well, and if you didn’t like his previous movies, then I imagine you won’t care for this one either, but who knows? Like every other Anderson film, it’s pretty clear you’re watching one of his movies. The style and themes carry over, even if the subject matter is different.
This movie is about innocence and love. And it’s just achingly heartfelt in its treatment of both subjects. Two kids, Suzy and Sam, run off to be together despite a world of unhappy, broken people trying to keep them apart. It’s charming, it’s sweet, and it’s funny.
It’s not perfect. I think there are a few too many characters and some of them get kind of lost in the background, essential to the story but not getting to be fully realized enough. Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, as Suzy’s parents, get a few additional quirks that don’t really add much to them in lieu of some moments that could really cement their characters. There’s one character in particular (played by Anderson alumnus Jason Schwartzman) who comes out of nowhere and just doesn’t jibe well with the rest of the proceedings. Tilda Swinton is also sort of unnecessary as a physical representation of what could and probably should have a more vague and therefore more fearsome threat.
But this is really beside the point because Suzy and Sam are the center of the proceedings and they are amazing. Newcomers Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman put in performances that many veteran actors could learn a lot from. They manage to both be terrifyingly intense while still fragile and innocent. Their characters, while the desperate young lovers, are both damaged goods. They could very easily grow up to be robbing banks and/or murdering people together. (MALE GAZE MOMENT: It should be said, because it can’t be avoided, that Suzy is disturbingly alluring — and only 12. The movie is set in 1965 and she smolders with that 60s-girl sexiness in a way that no 12-year-old should be able to. Anderson doesn’t flinch away from this, which is courting some shouts of…inappropriateness, but it’s a necessary move and it pays off, as the budding sexuality helps propel the battle for innocence at the heart of the movie.)
Sam and Suzy have their problems, but they’re kids on the cusp of puberty. The adults who orbit them — Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Murray and McDormand — have no such excuse, and they believe they know what Sam and Suzy don’t, that this love, even if it were real, can’t save the kids. They pursue the pair as a rescue operation, trying to save them from the threat of each other. “How will we get these fishhooks out of you?” Suzy’s mother asks her. Even Anderson himself isn’t sure that love will conquer all here: Sam and Suzy get into a fight almost right off the bat, and at one point Sam tells her, “I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”
It’s heartbreaking and beautiful and you just want to hold on tight to whoever’s sitting next to you and never let go, even if you didn’t arrive with them and don’t know them. I’m still of the opinion that The Royal Tenenbaums is Anderson’s greatest movie, but Moonrise Kingdom may end up being the one he’s best known for.