Top Fifty Films of the 10s — Number Six

#6 — Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom is enamored with stories and storytelling. The celebration manifests in part through the mils obsession of Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), a youthful resident of the island community New Penzance who feeds the wanderlust in her soul by relentlessly consuming young-adult books that suppose great adventures undertaken by underestimated tweens and teens. It’s also present in the constant exchange of banter among all the characters in a persistent quest to figure out motivations as if they are mysteries to solve, impediments to maintaining the serene existence they’ve sought off the coast of New England. In its most overt form, storytelling is celebrated by presence of a narrator (Bob Balaban) who speaks directly to the camera, explaining the geography of the island and who launches the cinematic tale with a sense of oddly pleasant foreboding, the same way the cliffhanger end of a chapter promises something really good is coming if you simply turn the page.

Moonrise Kingdom is a story of family, not unlike Anderson’s The Royal Tenenbaums, and is a love story, capturing the bloom of infatuation at the time when childhood is starting to give way to eager attempts at maturity. Suzy meets Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman), an orphan who tries unsuccessfully to find his missing community amid the wilderness-conquering rituals of the Khaki Scouts. Both feeling detached and a little lost, Suzy and Sam begin an urgent correspondence, eventually running away in a hopeful, yet hopeless, attempt to forge a new beginning as a chaste, romantic couple, living on the beach with little plan beyond intensely committed togetherness.

Anderson does intricate sprawl like no one else. and Moonrise Kingdom is arguably the most successful of his exquisitely arranged curio cases of warm whimsy. (The superior Rushmore is too loose and rambunctious, at least in comparison, to fall under that description.) Making his protagonists precocious kids turns Anderson’s affectations into natural extensions of the characters. Sam and Suzy are wearing the guise of adult seriousness, so the precision of their actions and arrangements make sense. A child’s tea party, attended by stuffed animals, is sure to be more controlled and refines than the equivalent affair mounted by individuals whose distance in age is most easily measured by decades.

By putting his distinctive artistic approach in the correct contest, Anderson rejuvenates the soulfulness of his work that can sometimes get lost among the ornate wallpaper and meticulously arranged baubles. Moonrise Kingdom brims with life, as if the film itself is charmed silly by Suzy and Sam’s certainty in each other. Funny, deft, and resolutely kind, Moonrise Kingdom does right by its story. As Suzy would attest, it’s worth getting lost in.

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