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Anderson's overly cute quirk fest also features compelling elements of redemption
on March 16, 2013
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Rating: 2.5 out of 5.0
Some may say 'Moonrise Kingdom' is charming and whimsical. Others might say it's simply trivial. Perhaps the best assessment is somewhere in between. One thing for sure is that the cinematography is a visual feast. Set in 1965 on the fictional New England island of New Pezance, it was actually shot around Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island.
'Moonrise' is formulaic up to a point. Quirky comedies usually feature protagonists who are outsiders, non-conformist, slightly emotionally unstable and victims of persecution by an established order. In this case, Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop fit the bill. A year before the break into the 'Second Act' where Sam and Suzy run off to their 'Moonrise Kingdom', they become pen pals after meeting at a church performance of Noye's Fluddle. A year later, Sam, who has a history of acting out behavior, finds himself ostracized by his Scout troop and then is dropped by his foster family after he disappears at his 'Khaki Scout' summer camp. Suzy comes from a more 'stable' family of dysfunctional attorney parents but also has behavior problems, and ends up running off with her 'soul mate', the equally troubled Sam.
Quirky comedies also feature a group (or groups) who persecute our quirky heroes. In this case, Sam is the subject of vituperation by his scout troop. Similarly, Suzy is rejected by her parents, who have no tolerance for her rebellious ways. Perhaps the most unpleasant scene in 'Moonrise Kingdom' is when the Scout Troop attempts to chase down Sam out in the forest. Fortunately, director Wes Anderson later redeems his antagonists. The scout troop realizes that they've been bullying Sam and finally decide to help him. Suzy's parents also realize the error of their ways and employing their legal acumen, aid Captain Sharp as he adopts Sam and prevents the Social Services matron from hauling Sam off to the Juvenile Refuge.
With both actors playing wondrously against type, Bruce Willis and Edward Norton as Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), also play characters worthy of redemption. Sharp, who's been having an affair with Suzy's mother, Laura Bishop, ends the affair and later nobly adopts Sam. And Randy, who initially loses his scout troop after they split camp aiding Sam, saves his superior, Commander Pierce, after Pierce demotes him for incompetence. Only the Social Services matron, who represents bureaucracy, finds no redemption in Anderson's redemptive pageant.
'Moonrise Kingdom' feels a bit too long especially when Sam and Suzy run away TWICE. And we also see one too many chases throughout the film. Nonetheless, Wes Anderson employs a number of great creative touches that distract us from the drawn out narrative. I'm referring of course to the fictional books he creates for Suzy as well employing the marvelous Benjamin Britten music.
One must realize that Anderson's characters are farcical types--not meant to be at all realistic. Rather, he's gently poking fun at those neurotic type of adults who lack insight into their own behavior. Fortunately, Anderson ends things on a positive note, as most of the adults such as the Bishops and Captain Sharp, redeem themselves in the end. As for Sam and Suzy, it's sort of like the kid's version of 'Silver Linings Playbook'--amusing up to a point but slightly over baked. When all is said and done, 'Moonrise' is sometimes a little too cute for its own good. But look a little closer and you'll also see it's a tale of the power of redemption--which is no small thing.