I rewatched Moonrise Kingdom after The French Dispatch to see the peak of Wes Anderson’s abilities to craft an emotional story. Set on a New England barrier Island, Moonrise Kingdom follows Sam, Jared Gilman, and Suzy, Kara Hayward, on their journey to run away together and live in the woods. Sam is an orphan that does not get along with his fellow scouts or his orphanage. Suzy is the daughter of two lawyers who often have physically destructive outbursts. Neither is fully self-aware of their struggles, but they have found comfort in each other through a pen-pal relationship leading up to their escape.
The young lovers have on-screen chemistry. Their dialog is age and self-aware-appropriate. They often talk over each other and do not think through their words before saying them. They also have a high level of resilience and forgive each other for the missteps. It is a fun journey back to childhood love and it pulls you into the story.
The Wes Anderson aesthetic is turned down a little when he shoots outdoors and cannot control every tiny detail. He makes up for it with his few interior shots. The colors are boosted to an unrealistic level for New England with all evidence of grey and most blues removed. It is still a feast for the eyes but not a realistic one. Anderson shies away from creating action sequences that are anything more than running in a straight line. It would have been nice to see him stretch his legs a little.
Moonrise Kingdom is a fun story of young love. It takes a cursory pass at showing how some children who are not in control of their emotions function and what it could look like if they met someone like them. The cast is full of past Wes Anderson cast members delivering similar performances to what we have seen before. The film is not groundbreaking, but the story may be Anderson’s best and most emotionally resonant.