Monday, 20 January 2014


“Distance not only gives nostalgia, but perspective, and maybe objectivity.” - Robert Morgan

A few days ago we watched an enjoyable and rather quirky film, Wes Anderson’s 2012 Moonrise Kingdom starring Jared Gilman, Kara Hayward, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton and Frances McDormand. Essentially a coming of age film, it is also a nostalgic look backward to more innocent times and in its way is also a statement on the problems faced by children who are or feel neglected.

The film is set on an island off the coast of New England in 1965, in September, as a severe storm approaches. At an island camp, a Khaki Scout has gone missing. It is 12-year-old Sam, 12 (Gilman), a bespectacled misfit and an orphan. Ward (Norton), his enthusiastic scoutmaster, organises a search after calling Captain Sharp (Willis), the local policeman. Sam is running away with Suzy (Hayward), his pen pal. She is the taciturn oldest child in a quirky and unhappy household of two lawyers (Murray and McDormand, the latter having an affair with Sharp).

Sam and Suzy are well-organised and camp in the great outdoors, but need to sort through their own issues. They nevertheless manage to stay a step ahead of the searchers, while the storm gets closer. Social Services is called in and the representative (Swinton) suggests Sam may need electroshock therapy and afterwards to be confined in an orphanage. Various factions of the town mobilise to search for the missing children and the town is turned upside down, which might not be such a bad thing.

The film is a tender and nostalgic love story. As the screenplay is written by Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola, I suspect that it may be a little autobiographical, once again influenced (as is evident in some of his other films) by the sixties of Anderson’s youth. This film has a superficial childlike innocence and simplicity, but it treats the problems of childhood and puberty with candour and seriousness. The result is an accurate and deeply heartfelt memoir.

The two children play their roles wonderfully and Gilman especially, does a sterling job in bringing the wayward Sam to life. Bruce Willis as the policeman and the parents of Suzy (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) play in an understated manner that supports the main story very well, but at the same time allows the subplot of the unlikely torrid love affair to work its humour through. Edward Norton who plays the dorky scout master is fantastic and Tilda Swinton as “Social Services” has a lot of fun with her brief, villainous role.

The film is quietly humorous, whimsical and almost like a modern-day (well, sixties…) fairy tale. There seems to be some affinity with Anderson’s “The Royal Tennenbaums”, but also dwells on a nostalgic view of the past and achieves a certain haunting beauty as the tale develops and concludes. We enjoyed it greatly and would recommend it highly. It is good to keep in mind, however, that the film polarised critics and public, with some viewers detesting it with a vengeance. Wes Anderson does have that effect on the viewing public.

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