Puppy love has finally received the Wes Anderson treatment. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a melancholy tale of growing up, and in true Wes Anderson fashion, is done so with signature charm, wit, deadpan dialogue, and dark humor. It is the precursor of sorts to the Catcher in the Rye years, with a more innocent, yet still Holden Caulfield-worthy commentary on society, with no one truly being able to understand the two 12-year-old stars of the film, Sam and Suzy. These “lovers” are outsiders in both their constrained families and society-a society where children have the maturity of adults, and adults, the immaturity of children. A forecasted storm foretells this pending adolescence, and you hope that their humility remains in tact once the storm touches ground.
Despite a cast full of A-list Hollywood actors, those who play Sam and Suzy, newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward, who had no prior acting experience save a school play or two, steal the show. This newness lends the characters an innocence and earnestness that is hard to find in Hollywood’s crop of child actors, which makes the universal story of growing pains even more heartfelt.
Part of what allows us to enter the world and mind of these kids so effortlessly is the always spot-on and quirky set design and cinematography found in Anderson’s films. “Moonrise Kingdom” is akin to a child’s fantasy novel of 1965, if you added a good heaping of khaki, grass, and yellow tones. Each frame is so geometric and choreographed that it resembles a workshop of sorts, or kaleidoscope, which makes it seem a world apart from ours; perfect for examining through the movie’s perspective of young love, as Suzy and Sam view themselves as the only ones in existence.