When 12 year old khaki scout Sam Shakusky (Jared GIlman) and troubled teen Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) first met at a Christmas pageant, it was love at first sight. After a year of writing letters to each other, the two young lovers decide to run away together, leaving Scout Master Randy Ward (Edward Norton), police chief Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Suzy’s parents Mr. and Mrs. Bishop (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), the whole platoon of khaki scouts and a social services officer (Tilda Swinton), trailing in their wake.
Moonrise KIngdom had a great premise. Young love always inspires good feelings among the viewers and granted, MK had some hints of The Royal Tenenbaum in its style given that it was helmed by the same director, Wes Anderson. But somehow, because the film dealt mainly with kids trying to act like adults, it was not as depressing as the 2001 All Star fail. Young love here, was not portrayed as a sappy, cutesey feeling but rather with a kind of intensity one would expect from a mature relationship. Still, there was an overall feeling of innocence and lack of guile in which this film is premised, and this, as well as the melancholic presentation of the story made the movie magical.
The set looked a tad cartoonish in contrast to the characters who all seemed so grim and stoic for the most part. But the dialogue, especially between Sam and Suzy are golden. When Sam said, “I love you but you don’t know what you’re talking about,” and Suzy responds with an “I love you too” in that Wednesday (Addams Family) way of hers, my heart just melted with the connection between their two characters. Adult males would shudder at the very thought of dropping the L word but this 12 year old who has been through a lot of rough times would say it so casually and meant it as if it was a mere statement of fact was — to say the least, heartwrenching. The way that he tries to take care of Suzy is also very sweet and Suzy’s protectiveness of him, while a bit extreme is certainly noteworthy.
All in all, Moonrise Kingdom had a very indie appeal and was done with a very low budget, considering Hollywood standards, but it managed to tell a story about love, friendship, companionship, and at the end of the day, family. It felt like a fairy tale that captures the essence of youth and delivers a sense of whimsy that will leave audiences with a great feeling after watching the movie.