Moonrise Kingdom:Campfire Fish

–Year Released: 2012
Directed by: Wes Anderson  
Starring: Kara Hayward, Jared Gilman, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Mill Murray, Frances McDormand
(Pg-13, 100min.)

Deadpan, quirky, and almost a little too stylized for its own good, this tale of love and loneliness breaks through all those trappings because it really does penetrate the human heart.

The core story takes place somewhere on an east coast island in 1965, as two pre-adolescent star-crossed lovers plan to run away together just as a deadly storm is about to engulf them and the entire island.  What separates this film from other over-rated avant garde attempts such as Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers, or even director Wes Anderson’s earlier 2001 The Royal Tenebaums is that the characters, especially the two young leads, are actually sympathetic and not just eccentric dysfuntionals. 

True, the adults border on caricature, at least in the beginning, but as the lost children and the storm bear down upon us, so does a certain authenticity.  We almost have that same child’s view of innocence and intuition that distinguishes the work of Mark Twain.  Only here the adult world is not innately corrupt; its residents just cover their wounds more efficiently than the children do. 

Probably most real are the interactions of the scouts sent to find their runaway Sam (Jared Gilman) whose social awkwardness makes him an outcast.  Their initial indifference and out and out cruelty are muted versions of Lord of the Flies bloodletting, but ultimately the troops as well as the adults searching for the pair are altered by them.  Sam and Suzy’s shared anguish – he’s an orphan shuffled from foster home to foster home while she has an inner rage she cannot control – creates an instant bond between them.  And that stubborn bond ultimately earns them the scout troops’ respect and also somehow makes it safer for the adults to expose some of their own vulnerabilities.

While Director Wes Anderson treats his characters with his usual bemused detachment, they somehow refuse to remain the pawns he had so carefully laid on his cinematic chessboard, and rising up in unison just as the storm lashes ashore, they ultimately checkmate their creator.  

Share Sam and Suzy’s escape from the strictures of civilization by trying your hand at campfire cooking. 

–Kathy Borich