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Review: Follow Your Bliss (Moonrise Kingdom)

This review was originally posted as "People's Republic of Moonrise" on Hollywood Elsewhere

Wes Anderson is an acquired taste. His cavalcade of eccentric loners has spawned some of the most passionate fandom and some of the most bitter vitriol. Even previous works like Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, judged to be Anderson's best films, have their detractors. So it seems the young romance and warm, yellow tints of Moonrise Kingdom invite remarks of being "too twee" and "reeking of hipster-ism", but at the Anderson's seventh directorial effort is one that looks at childhood in the faraway distance of an adult's mind.

A mail correspondence between Sam (Jared Gilman), a very efficient boy scout, and Suzy (Kara Hayward), the product of two intellectuals, initiates a love that soon sets a town asunder. Suzy and Sam abscond away from their respective families in a New England town to make a life for themselves. Their living in the wild is not as far-fetched as it would be for star-struck lovers as Sam is an expert in the outdoors and Suzy is too cool to care about the problems that come with living in a forest.

Moonrise Kingdom serves as wish fulfillment for its audience. A yearning for a time when children could seek out themselves without the worries and anxieties that come with adolescence in 2012: updating relationship statuses, sexting, pregnancy worries, etc. The island these two have created is infused with all of the positive feelings of the sixties before they were ripped away by the Manson murders and Vietnam. A scenario like this just could not play out in modern day America.

Eventually the freedom that Sam and Suzy have must end as a hurricane threatens to wash their kingdom away. Scoutmaster Ward (a delightfully neurotic Edward Norton) organizes a search and enlists the aid of Cousin Ben (Jason Schwartzman) to find the children. Suzy's mother sends Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) out to find the children as well. Parents and adults in Anderson films are often wildly irresponsible, but Norton and Willis serve as beacons for excellent background characters. These men are not without their own problems, yet they take to the call of action with ease.

Those unaccustomed to love in an Anderson tale, don't assume the romance is overly sweet. Confronted with Suzy's mentions of love, Sam responds in kind by noting "you don't know what you're talking about."  When the adults enter the tale, then the fleeting romance becomes clear: love doesn't always last. Suzy's parents, Walt (Bill Murray) and Laura (Frances McDormand) entire relationship can be summed up in this exchange. "Stop feeling sorry for yourself," Laura tells Walt. "Why?" he asks. A loveless marriage can sometimes spring out of the universal condition, but that is not this film's concern. Here at Moonrise Kingdom, all of the wonder, terror, and bliss of life can be experienced without the worries of what comes with age. What Wes Anderson gives us with Moonrise Kingdom is pure unadulterated joy, without all of the neuroses.

It's a slice of life from a simpler time, if just for a moment.


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