Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- 2; L- 1; S/N-3 . Running time: 1 hour 34 min.

Ah, you are beautiful, my love;
ah, you are beautiful;
your eyes are doves.
Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved,
truly lovely.
Song of Solomon 1:15-16a

Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking.
Romans 12:2a (The Message)

Sam shows Suzy a map of the island.

© 2012 Focus Features.

Wes Anderson’s delightful take on first love has a touch of magic realism that should delight young and old.

The romance between two disturbed children begins when Sam (Jared Gilman) sees Suzy (Kara Hayward)

dressed as a raven in a church production of Noah’s Ark. Sam is attending a Khaki Scout camp on the island off the New England coast where Suzy and her family live, and the next summer, in a series of letter exchanges, the two arrange a rendezvous in a meadow. Their attempt to spend an idyllic ten days camping in the wilderness runs afoul of Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) and his Scouts, the island’s one-man police force Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), and the girl’s strange parents Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand)—all searching to find and bring them back to what they presume is safety, a storm due to arrive within a few days.

Both children are outsiders. The other boys at the Scout camp consider the orphaned Sam weird, and when informed by Scoutmaster Ward that he has run away, the boy’s foster father declares that he is no longer welcome in their home. Suzy also marches to a different drum than her younger brothers, retreating into her beloved fantasy adventure books. Indeed, it is another book that especially disturbs her: she has found a book her mother had bought, one on how to cope with disturbed childrenand she assumes that she, not her brothers, is the object of her mother’s concern.

From what we see of the older Bishops, there should be for Suzy a book entitled How to Cope with Disturbed (and Disturbing) Parents. The parents seem to have settled into a Cold War relationship, and they use battery-powered megaphones to call and talk with the family members. Anderson effectively uses the set for the Bishop residence to show how isolated each is from the others, his camera moving from room to room where each follow their own pursuits (the little brothers are treated as basically one unit). Clearly this is not your Norman Rockwell family once so beloved by Hollywood filmmakers!

Sam and Suzy meet in the meadow agreed upon, whereupon, using a map, he leads her along an old Indian trail to a hidden cove for setting up camp. They name this Moonrise Kingdom. Suzy packs her belongingsmostly consisting of her beloved books and a battery-powered record player borrowed from her brothers —in a suitcase rather than a knapsack, so it is amusing to watch them hike along the trail, Sam equipped as a proper Scout and Suzy looking like she should be going to catch a train or bus. What happens over the next few days include the pair growing so close that they enter into a child-like marriage contract, confrontation with those hunting for them, a lighting bolt that strikes Sam (not to worry, this being a part of the magic realism), the heavy storm, and much more that will change the lives of all concerned.

Adding considerably to the enjoyment is the soundtrack, employing from six to eight pieces by Benjamin Britten that wonderfully complement the visuals. Music supervisor Randall Poster deserves great credit for assisting Anderson in selecting the music. Especially memorable is gThe Young’s Person’s Guide to the Orchestra,h the Fugue of which is played during the end credits (half of the screening audience sat all through this). Also endearing is the use of the composer’s gNoye’s Fludde,h highlighting nicely both the children’s play about Noah (which brought Sam and Suzy together) and the flood which results from the terrible storm that wracks the island. There are even some songs by Hank Williams.

Anderson’s film (I should also mention that Francis Ford Coppola’s son Roman is co-writer) has to be, along with Pixar’s Brave, one of the best family movies of the summerthough parents should be warned that the naive 12 year-olds try their first gFrench Kissh and artist Sam’s portrait of her shows her clad in her underwear. (So, on second thought, leave the younger children at home.) One turn of events that is heartwarming is the change of heart of the Scouts, led by Izod (L.J. Foley), who had once scorned Sam, turning them into advocates for himindeed, rescuers, as the captured boy is slated to be returned to an orphanage where his spirit will be crushed. Most of the adults, including two who had been committing adultery, change for the better, making this a delightful tale of redemption as well as seeking one’s place in the world and finding one’s soul mate.

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