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Moonrise Kingdom

Movies | Fans of Wes Anderson's previous works will be familiar with the dry, self-deprecating humor here

Issue: "The brain trust," June 30, 2012

Khaki Scout Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) is a vision of manly wisdom. Though a young adolescent himself, when he invites his true love-misfit Suzy Bishop-to escape with him into the wild, he assumes the role of gentleman protector. Besides carrying her suitcase over rock walls and crevices, that means imparting to her secrets of the wilderness: Turtles will bite you, he explains, if you put your finger in their mouth. Feeling thirsty? Chew on a pebble. Of course, a wise man admits his limitations. When the awkward scene of this Romeo and his Juliet gnawing rocks is finally over, Sam says sheepishly, "I brought water, too."

For fans of Wes Anderson's previous works (The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore), this sort of dry, deprecating humor will be familiar. Moonrise Kingdom distills many of his trademarks, including beautifully sculpted landscapes and characters brilliant in their failings. There is also something of a plot. Set in 1965, as a record-breaking storm is bearing down on their island, Sam and Suzy fly the coop. Suzy's father (Bill Murray) is soon on their trail, as are the Khaki Scouts led by the scoutmaster (Edward Norton) and the island's police chief (Bruce Willis).

The plot, though, is hardly the thing. From the tongue-in-cheek dialogue to the cartoon-like characters, the artifice of the film is always conspicuous. That's not to say there aren't moments of real intimacy-where the curtain seems to lift, and we peek beyond the veneer. But even then, as Suzy's mother and father say to the viewer as much as each other, "We're all they've got, Walt." And the deadpan reply, "That's not enough."

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Sam and Suzy, though, do find something that seems to be enough, for now. With (PG-13) sexual experimentation and profanity and a willingness to break the rules, Anderson seems to suggest they're able to achieve what the adults can't: authenticity. But is theirs authentic intimacy or just another artful pose? Perhaps a more relevant question would be, Will their story resonate beyond Anderson's normal fanbase? I suspect, as Walt put it, "That's not enough."

Emily Whitten
Emily Whitten

Emily reviews books and movies for WORLD and is a contributor at She homeschools her two children and sees books through the eyes of a mother.


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