BY DAVID CORBO I don’t know that Wes Anderson has really captured me since The Royal Tenenbaums, that is until Moonrise Kingdom, his seventh and latest effort. Directed by Anderson and co-written with Roman Coppola, this alluring film makes broad statements about our modern day social and cultural dilemmas all the while charming us with a whimsical childhood tale of young and innocent love. Anderson’s microscopic, plodding approach to the dynamics of sibling rivalry in The Darjeeling Limited (also co-penned by Coppola) reflected more pain than gain to this viewer and left me feeling vacuous and unfulfilled, especially after experiencing a joyful connection to the recognizable sense of isolation so apparent in Anderson’s humanist approach to The Royal Tenenbaums.
Moonrise Kingdom resurrects that sense of hope, leaving the viewer feeling cathartically renewed and reconnected to the better side of the human condition. The film accomplishes this by inviting us to leave our adult foibles at the turnstile so that we can peer at ourselves through the kaleidoscope of youthful, innocent eyes at a society that’s gone awry. Anderson loves to juxtapose the perspectives of the adult and childhood worlds. It’s a great way to pry open our minds and leave them receptive to his message, and he does it successfully here. Sam and Suzy begin the process of falling in love as only the young and innocent can do; with complete emotional and physical honesty. They communicate with complete openness though both have reason to fear rejection. Anderson sells that honesty so well that when the twelve year old couple engages in a groping, pubescent love scene on the beach there is no feeling that you are privy to something immoral or pornographic. Rather, it seems to me speak to how physical love should be; taken out of the puritanical shadow and elevated to its rightful place in the playful intimacy of a loving relationship. I love the way he uses this candid playfulness to draw a stark contrast to the adult and familial relationships in the film. Suzy’s parents are a perfect parody of many a modern family. So narcissistic as to be totally dysfunctional both as parents and partners, they’re as unaware of their children as they are of each other to the point that Laura’s affair with Captain Sharp is of no real consequence to anyone, not even themselves.
When I look around me I see relationships like this everywhere I look, even in our entertainment. Anderson is sculpting a real moral tale here. He’s showing us that it’s not just our childhood that we’ve lost, but our sense of personal commitment. Casting Sam as an orphaned child, rejected by the profit seeking owner of his foster home and beset upon by a Kafkaesque bureaucrat known only as Social Services, Anderson is telling us to wake up and smell the coffee. We live in a world where stories of abandoned, abused and battered children run globally on a daily basis. Have we forgotten that our children are our future? In the whole mess that is the adult world in this modern day fable, only Captain Sharp eventually stands tall when he comes forth to adopt Sam both to fill the hole in his own life and for the altruistic purpose of keeping Sam close to his soul-mate Suzy.What are the Khaki Scouts all about? In this subplot the writers have the boys playing as men and the men playing as boys. Eventually it’s the boys who rise up and do the right thing. While this is all presented as silly and comedic, the underlying sense is that the adults that are running our global military-industrial complex are just men playing as boys and that we damn well better hope that the boys playing as men have got it figured out by the time they gain power. I think Anderson found his voice in this one. Moonrise Kingdom” is a rare, entertaining, perceptive and fun film that does a stellar job of reminding us that, in a world full of material distraction we need to be mindful not to lose the soul to soul connectedness that makes us human. Even more to the point, it reminds us that our children are not only our future currency but also the mirror in which we see ourselves. In a summer movie season that hasn’t offered anything of substance, Moonrise Kingdom stands a head above the rest.