Moonrise Kingdom is for Almost Everyone

Moonrise Kingdom is for (Almost) Everyone

Moonrise Kingdom is a treat for all, except for those people who don’t like happy endings. 

And then they make out.

In the theater screening Wes Anderson‘s newest film, Moonrise Kingdom, two friends and I poured white peach Honest Tea over ice, shuffling with anticipation.

Theaters like the Ritz at the Bourse make a girl feel high class, even if the tickets are more affordable than any AMC given their gracious student discounts. I often equate being in Old City, Philadelphia to stepping into a slice of history, all cobble-stoned and cathedral ceilinged glory, but not without its charming modern smog: all in all, it is the perfect place to see an indie film.

Snug on the fabric stadium seats in theater 1, Brittanie, Geoffrey and I stared wide-eyed at the magic unfolding on the screen before us. The two pre-teen protagonist runaways on the big screen make camp on a deserted beach before us, dancing to Francois Hardy’s Le Tempts De L’amour  in  their underwear. Sam tells Suzy he loves her, even though she “doesn’t know what she’s talking about.”

Welcome to the world of Wes Anderson’s newest masterpiece, a stunning adventure that should be on the lips and minds of any movie goer this summer sick of sequels and superhero movies. Those who liked RushmoreThe Life Aquatic, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox will not be disappointed. “This one is the most Wes Andersony of them all,” they’ll say, if you ask them. “And like the rest, it’s brilliant.” It’s up to you to decide if they’re right. 

At some point during the film I turned to Brittanie, head bundled in a scarf in the air conditioned room, and whisper-exclaimed, “I wish this was real life!”

Perhaps wrongfully, or perhaps not, Brittanie assured me that it was.

If you haven’t seen the film, it follows the story of  star-crossed tween lovers Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman), two pubescent misfits residing on an island of the coast of New England in the 1960’s. Suzy is the problem child of Bill Murray and Francis McDormand, a blue-eye-shadow wearing, binocular toting preteen with anger issues and a knack for stealing library books. Sam is the most unpopular boyscout in his Khaki troop; despite being an orphan and a social outcast, he manages to be both a complete nerd and a lady killer.

While at heart this might seem like your average boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl-run-away-together, boy-and-girl-face-opposing-forces, then a-happy-ending-emerges story, there is something extraordinarily honest, precious and raw about the simplicity and innocence of Sam and Suzy’s relationship, which is portrayed without a condescending note. It is this ideal entity — Sam and Suzy’s love — that proves itself as the driving force of the film. It is also this entity that may not be everyone’s cup of iced Honest Tea.

“Real life,” as defined by Brittanie, was this: maybe not the movie, but at the very least the three of us at the Ritz drinking Honest Tea. At least the rowdy boy scouts on the screen (Edward Norton as scoutmaster), and Suzy looking out of her window with binoculars as a boys choir sings “Cuckoo.” Real life was Bruce Willis as a cop, a little bit of juvenile kissing, and a narrator that looks like a gnome. In the context of our presence, these things were as real as can be. Suzy and Sam’s love was, for a too-brief 94 minutes, the realest thing in the city. 

Moonrise Kingdom, making boy-scouts cool.
Gnome-like narrator

The next day, I was still enjoying an after-movie high, raving about that fuzzy problem-erasure quality of the movie, and how I wished “What kind of bird are you?” would be a successful pickup line in reality. My boyfriend, who had yet to see Moonrise Kingdom, delivered interesting news: his brother hated the movie. I was forced to deal with the fact that there are people in this world that don’t have taste  there are people in this world that don’t believe in love  that the same reasons I find a movie amazing can be turn-offs to those who think “ideal” means “bullshit.” 

My first reaction was that a person who hates Moonrise Kingdom might as well be a love-hater. You know, those types that think that love is just a scientific and cultural creation, even if they may be completely right. But to me, that was part of the beauty of it. Regardless of what you think of love, if you’ve been in love, or if you’re an alien, it is less the actuality of the love than the portrayal of it that proves itself amazing. The fact that Sam and Suzy believe in it so strongly is a magic of its own — it shows that if you believe in something enough, it may as well be real, and if it is real, it needn’t be complicated. It exists with ease. It’s beautifully unassuming, like childhood. 

Now I think it is less about the love that someone might take issue with, and more about the too-perfect and artistic portrayal of it. 

Which is fair, depending on your perspective. Sure, Sam and Suzy’s love seems too-good-to-be-true, and (spoiler alert) it is a movie, therefore automatically unreal. The question becomes whether or not a person expects a movie — or any piece of art — to (if we’re going to get philosophical) accurately express “the real”.  One could argue that “real” and “ideal” are opposite — I, however, don’t see this as the case. In the same way that science fiction incorporates real-life science, a gorgeous painting can highlight real-life emotions, feelings, and anxieties just like any photograph, and perhaps more accurately so. 

So let me tell you why not to see this film. If you hate idealistic or abstract art, you will not like it. There is no arguing that this is a fictional world on screen – the aim is not to capture life’s brutal reality, but to create an aesthetically pleasing world within which very real complications operate, love being the least complicated of them all. Though the quirkiness of the actors never misses a beat, and the theatrics may indeed reach slightly past belief-suspension, the well-calculated clockwork of Anderson’s construction is beyond admirable. I appreciate the whimsical reality on screen for what it is -– a beautiful creation. A piece of art. It is this manufactured fiction that makes the little truths of love, innocence, and growing up woven into it so effective. Artists have being trying to create and achieve the ideal for ages, and I think Wes Anderson may have beaten everyone to the punch with this movie. He deserves a round of applause.

When I left the Ritz, Old City was the same, but something in the air was different. Maybe a little glitter on the cobble-stone, or a trick of light and shadows of the lanterns. Whatever it was, it put a metaphorical spring in my step, and for that, I thank Wes Anderson. 

Don’t see the movie if you don’t like happy endings. Do see this movie if you enjoy art, whether you believe in love or not. Moonrise Kingdom is at its core a fairy tale, and from the beginning, the tone is set – love is the hero. If you go to the movies to see death and poverty, there are plenty of other movies for you. You will know from the second you enter Wes Anderson’s pretty and witty, poignant an palatable universe, that this movie is a feel-good movie done extraordinarily well. It is art in the art-iest sense, Wes Anderson in the Wes-Anderson-iest way.  Need I mention there is a kitten, as well? 

Maybe I should have put that out there, up front, and saved myself the argument.

If you don’t like happy endings, currently playing:

Beasts of the Southern Wild. It’s incredible, but you will cry.

6 Comments Add yours

  1. Bill Chance says:

    Saw Moonrise Kingdom this weekend and really liked it. It had that quirky Wes Anderson feel to it – yet it had a simple story and characters I cared about. That’s good enough for me.

    Thanks for the thoughtful review.

  2. fionaeve says:

    I really liked your article because although at first glance I was expecting just another movie review, you did much more than that. I like how you encorporated your own experience and characters into the article – it made it all the more interesting.

  3. dline79 says:

    I also really liked this movie. I am also dumbfounded when people say they don’t like Wes Anderson movies. That’s just ridiculous.

  4. itsrkd says:

    Fun review. I gotta say I’m one of those people that loved Moonrise Kingdom but I normally find Wes Anderson movies obnoxious. I guess there’s no accounting for taste.

  5. lauragjohn says:

    I was a fan of the movie!
    I like that you questioned if “unrealistic” is a valid criticism of art, because I wonder that myself. I don’t think art really has to reflect the artist’s true opinion all the time.

  6. triciee04 says:

    I think I may have to check this movie out. I’ve seen a few of his other films (loved “The Darjeeling Limited”) and the way this one is described definitely does sound like a much needed break from the repetition of movies nowadays. Although I have to admit I’m not one who is usually “open” about being a fan of love stories. I’m ashamed to say that I’m more closeted :-(.

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