Sydney 2012 Review: MOONRISE KINGDOM

Filmmaker Wes Anderson may not be the 'King of the World', but he is certainly the ruler of his movie universe. He decides how it looks, chooses what people live in it and even dictates their ways of living. Every so often, the name of his kingdom changes as a new film arrives, but its appearance, the characters in it and how they live always follow the same basic Wes Anderson rules. And right now, that world is known as Moonrise Kingdom, and those who visit will get to experience something uniquely beautiful.  

Moonrise Kingdom is situated on an island, and on the island lives the wealthy family of the Bishops. In the opening sequence, the Bishop family's huge house is shown with tracking shots from room to room; and a little later, the scout camp is introduced with one long sequence featuring similar tracking techniques. The camera movement is smooth and clever, and the color palette is rich with bright contrasts. In fact, the way the film looks should easily identify it as a Wes Anderson film, and that has no doubt been helped by Robert Yeoman's cinematography, Adam Stockhausen's production design and Kasia Walicka-Maimone's costume design. 

The adult residents of the island include Police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis), Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton), Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura Bishop (Frances McDormand). They have one thing in common: they are not happy. The ensemble cast entertainingly plays their parts, and Norton in particular is a standout. However, the story actually centers on a pair of young lovers, Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward). So Gilman and Hayward are the real stars here, and Gilman could quite possibly be the cutest kid seen in a movie this year. His innocent looks coupled with the mature dialogue are both comic and immensely likeable. Hayward, on the other hand, wonderfully plays Suzy who appears physically more mature than Sam, but is every bit as innocent at heart. 

The young lovers decide to run away from home and escape into the wilderness. Sam is armed with his skills as a scout, while Suzy has brought her favorite story books and portable record player. Scout Master Ward's discovery of how Sam has escaped from his tent is one of the most memorable moments of the movie (and it is just one of many). While the young fugitives are enjoying their freedom and time with each other, Sharp, Ward, Suzy's parents, 'Social Services" (Tilda Swinton) and a group of young scouts take part in the search for them. What follows is a fun, wild, touching, hilarious and exhilarating adventure. 

Only Wes Anderson could turn a story about a bunch of unhappy characters into such a deliriously joyful film. It is a coming-of-age story that you may find on the pages of story books, except it is a little dark. Fans of Anderson's films will have fun picking out all the similarities between Moonrise Kingdom and his earlier films; while those who are new to his films have now got a perfect entry point into his unique movie universe.  
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