Moonrise Kingdom (US 2012)

 Director: Wes Anderson

 Starring: Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban  

Screenplay: Anderson, Roman Coppola  

Cinematography: Robert Yeoman  

Music: Alexandre Desplat; Benjamin Britten

Fact: Jason Schwartzman is the son of Rich Man Poor Man and Godfather actress Talia Shire (who is also the aunt of Roman Coppola)

Lie: Manchester City footballer Mike Summerbee was the inspiration for The Isley Brothers’ 1973 hit Summer Breeze.


In one line: Two young lovers elope as a giant storm approaches.



12 year old Sam Shakusky (Gilman) runs away from a ‘Khaki Scout’ camp in 1965 New England. He plans to meet fellow misfit Suzy Bishop whom he met the previous year backstage at a performance of Benjamin Britten’s ‘Noye’s Fludde’. Suzy has left her lighthouse home ‘Summer’s End’ (and her feuding parents and three younger brothers) to be with her pen-pal and lover.  Lonely police captain Sharp (Willis), kindly but dysfunctional Scout Leader Ward (Norton) and Suzy’s lawyer parents (McDormand and Murray) lead the search for the two young lovers.  The sinister ‘Social Services’(Swinton) has plans to house Sam in an orphanage and Suzy’s parents are determined that the two children will never see each other ever again.  Ward’s scout troupe set out to rescue Sam and Suzy as a devastating storm approaches the New England coast.


Although I enjoyed Fantastic Mr Fox, Moonrise Kingdom is the big return to form that we’ve all been waiting for from Anderson.

This is a charming film with lovely performances from all concerned. All of the usual Anderson tropes can be found in the film: the ‘aged’ look of the film stock; the sense of nostalgic yearning (the yellow filters make you feel as if you are watching a genuine 60s/early 70s film); the ensemble cast of familiars – particularly Murray and Schwartzman – although Gilman looks like he was born to be in a WA film; the rectilinear shots; the brilliant juxtapositions and ironies within the frame; the fantastic editing which occasionally shows ‘the whole picture’ in its cross cutting (particularly the foster family of juvenile delinquents that Sam has escaped), and best of all Anderson’s own unique peculiarities that give you an insight into the director’s mind and make you want to embrace that world as your own.

There are the usual captions and lettering used as narrative devices and the usual brilliant idiosyncratic language use from pretty much everyone concerned.

Gilman is tremendous as the clever and resourceful Sam, but almost all of the rest of the characters have something to offer. Willis is particularly affecting as the lonely and kindly cop Sharp. Captain Sharp is knocking off Suzy’s mum out of a quiet desperation for company rather than anything else. Murray has a subdued role in the film, but the audience can sense his wistful desperation from some great acting and there’s a nice shot of the slightly flabby Murray drinking from a full wine bottle, smoking a cigarette and holding an axe because he is looking for a tree to fell as a way of venting his suppressed demons.

The shots of the actual Moonrise Kingdom (a tiny sheltered New England bay where Sam and Suzy make camp) are little glimpses of heaven – a sanctuary and paradise with a finite time span. The film returns for a loving shot of the bay near the end of the film.

Not everything works. Anderson’s tendency to veer towards the silly recurs from time to time, and there are some misjudgements of tone, but this is a lovely, life-affirming tale, bookended and brought to a satisfying conclusion by the narration of gentle meteorologist Balaban (he played Phoebe’s equally gentle but absent father in Friends if you’re wondering where you’ve seen him).

And lots of it are really funny as well.

A great film.