Moonrise Kingdom was a surprising and interesting experience. If it were a painting, it would be a watercolor. Almost from the beginning that's what it reminded me of. The story, characters, plot, cinematography, and even acting were on the surface washed out and faint. The film lacked defining lines or bold stokes. But like a watercolor masterpiece it wasn't the sharp edges or striking bold colors that made the piece, but a combining of the whole that makes an emotional impact. It didn't move the mind, or even please the eye, but when you look at it as a whole, it speaks to the soul. That was the power of this movie.
I don't mean to say it was an emotional roller coaster, or even the type of movie that would move the emotional to cry, it seemed to me it spoke quietly and subtly, like a good watercolor should. The story itself is nothing new, however the world it takes place in is not quite our world. It's like a parallel universe almost like ours, but two to the right and down one. It's not magical, but some parts do stretch the possible. From an impossibly big tree-house, built impossibly high on an impossibly small tree, to affects of being hit by lighting, this is not quite our would. But it could almost be. Set in the mid 60's, it wasn't quite our sixties. Even the characters themselves were just a slight bit impossible, the situations just a little out of phase with anything that would have exactly happened in our world. However, much of that is the fun of this film. It's humor is rooted in that slightly impossible world these characters live in. And that's what makes this film fun, what makes it work.
I must give kudos to the whole crew on this one, I don't think if anything had been missing this film would have been worth a thing. The cast was top notch, and even though the characters were very washed out and thin, that almost seemed the point of this movie. To try to make something great, using the lightest hand possible. It was nominated for many awards, and even won a few, but the film wasn't bold enough to sweep in the trophies. This was a Bruce Willis we don't get to see very often, and a classic Bill Murray. "Lost in Translation" Bill Murray, not "Ghostbusters" Bill Murray. Edward Norton also turned in a great performance, he was surprisingly perfectly cast for this roll.
The directing was also top notch. Some might think with such an A-List cast, there wouldn't be much to do, but I would disagree. I don't think this was much of a departure for Bill Murray, I've seen this Bill Murray before. That was great casting. But for Bruce and Edward I'm pretty sure the director Wes Anderson had to have a pretty strong guiding hand to produce the performance we are gifted with by those two in this movie. They are both great actors, and I have lots of respect for both of them, but Wes was able to coax something out of both of them in this movie that was something different. Maybe a little special. And he was able to keep a unified vision and feeling throughout the film, when he had a cast who could have easily ran off with the show.
Ok, enough nuts and bolts. The heart of this movie is a light romantic comedy. The comedy comes out in the outlandishness of the world Wes and the writers created here. The characters aren't trying to be funny, it's they themselves, and the situations, that are funny. It's "over the top" ness. But the love story is a bit touching. It's not overly explored, or sappy, or involved. It's a simple case of two very young pre-teens who experience love at first sight, and they are going to be together, no mater what, period. "True Romance" and "Natural Born Killers" kind of GOING to be together. They are not going to let anything stop them. And they are willing to stab and shoot to make sure it happens (ok, with sissors and a BB gun, but they are just pre-teens remember)
Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward ) are both oddballs, outcast, who are misunderstood by those around them. They don't really explore this aspect much in the film, and since really the entire cast are kinda oddballs, it seems strange they are singled out so much. But within the story itself, Sam being an orphan, and Suzy's fiery temper seems to pretty much be enough to set them apart. These two are totally comfortable with each other almost from the start of their adventure. There is a short period of "getting to know" the other, but they don't seem to really need this stage very much. Their absolute certainty that they are meant to be together pretty much overrides all other considerations. Their one small dust up is over almost as soon as it begins. And for two kids, they are surprisingly comfortable with each other. After taking a swim they have no problems spending the rest of the day and night in nothing but their underwear. Sam even does a water color painting of her, and she has no problems posing.
In fact, what awkwardness there is, seems to be mostly due to their age. They do seem unsure exactly how a boy and a girl are supposed to act towards each other. A fact that is largely due to their age and being raised in a very out of the way area during the 60's. They are not shy with one another, in fact it's moving to see exactly how comfortable they are. When they touch, and finally become (very PG) romantic, their only hesitancy comes from simply not knowing what their doing. (There is nothing beyond 2nd base here, and no insinuation of anything more either.) In fact, they don't even have any reservations sleeping together that night. That's what I found so special about this whole movie, they never doubt, even for a moment, they are supposed to be together. And all their actions are centered around making it so. Even to the last scene of this move, they show that without a doubt, the adults in there life are never going to be able to keep them apart.
I've been very vague about this movie, focusing on the general so as to not give away any plot points. In closing I'll just say that the storytelling style of this movie was a refreshing change. I enjoyed it very much, and I was moved by the power of the love these two characters shared, and was impressed by the way it was presented. It's not an exactly correct comparison, but I really feel this was the pre-teen PG version of "True Romance". They showed that they were so devoted to being together, and protective of each other, they they would use deadly force if necessary to not be separated. It's just an interesting take on an old theme, done in a refreshing and different way. It was not the best movie I've ever seen, but I'll see it again, and enjoy it. It's not for everyone I'm sure, but I would rate it in my top 20, maybe top 10.