Childhood is a dream from which no one wakes. The current generation knows this perhaps better than its predecessors, and its response is our “remix culture,” in which feeling and wit are reduced to a collection of references, hyperlinks to the shared esoteric knowledge that substitutes for intimacy. Fucking hipsters, man.
Such is the cry of Wes Anderson’s, ahem, critics, and Moonrise Kingdom will do nothing to quell their hatred of mannerly cinematography, slow motion or a vintage pop soundtrack. They’re missing out.
Moonrise Kingdom, a phrase whose meaning becomes clear only in the film’s last shot, contains all the guileless magic and gentle melancholy of Anderson’s best films, but more finely tuned. The film feels like the most concise articulation of his central thesis- that there are no adults, but only children who must lick their own wounds.
Perhaps due to the meticulous nature of his vision, Anderson is an actor’s director, and Kingdom showcases some wonderful performances. In particular, Jared Gilman as Sam is earnest and intense with none of the child actor’s self-consciousness. He and Kara Hayward as Suzy, a bottled-up gamine reeling from her parents’ crumbling marriage, embody all of youth’s “knowingness”- the dread of and fascination with the adult world awaiting them.
Some other treats include Edward Norton as Sam’s Khaki Scout Leader, a turn full of Norton’s particular young-old charm that no Wilson brother could have accomplished. Bruce Willis is a hangdog cop in love with Frances McDormand, and Bill Murray is a miserable, wine-guzzling attorney whose pain masks a deep love for his family.
In short, Moonrise Kingdom is film whose sweet sadness works as counterpoint to the artifice of its own aesthetics. Go see it.