Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most unabashedly romantic films I have seen in a long time. Romance in nature: the cinematography captures the spectacular romance of the New England coast and its rugged coastline, fog, damp verdant trees, mellow sunshine, clapboard houses, Episcopalian churches. I was reminded sharply of the summers I spent on the coast, where nature, though daunting and powerful, is also as kindly and protective as a cove surrounded by pines. Romance in childhood: as with his other films (I’m thinking particularly of Royal Tenenbaums) childhood is that time (and in Anderson’s world, that place) imbued with a desire for adventure and the development of a morality which must stand against the approaching hypocrisy of adulthood. In creating their Moonrise Kingdom, 12-year olds Sam and Suzy establish the fort of their childhood with powerful elements which even adults are powerless against: a pair of binoculars, library books containing heroes and orphans, personal quests for freedom conducted with utmost precision and commitment, putting on plays, and personal mementoes (when Sam shows off his late mother’s brooch it is heartbreaking and reminds us of the dad’s glasses in The Darjeeling Limited). Finally, there is the romance of the most simple and straightforward childhood love. Sam and Suzy show their love for each other in the wonderful and honest way that only 12-year olds can – reading aloud to and painting watercolors of each other, talking earnestly about their hopes and dreams, writing letters, and literally weathering a storm together.
You know you are in a Wes Anderson world when you see children reading books against a backdrop of Benjamin Britten and the divine Bob Balaban, resplendent in red, punctuating like a Greek chorus with his precise diction and weather predictions. In Mr. Anderson’s world, furthermore, childhood is the preferred and superior state, with its simple and fierce loyalties, commitment to adventure and knowledge, affection, and wonder. Even more than in the Royal Tenenbaums, you feel that the children pity the adult creatures who at every turn try to corral them into an unnatural state. Without children, who would remind adults that love, loyalty, and a perfectly-set up camp are the keys to happiness?
Moonrise Kingdom. Dir. by Wes Anderson. Focus Features and Indian Paintbrush, 2012. In (deadpan) English.