Sam Shakusky (Jared Gilman) and Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward), are in love, and will move heaven and earth to be together. The fact that they’re only 12 makes the logistics a little difficult, but not horribly. Suzy lives on a fictional New England island, with her parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) and siblings. Sam comes to the island every summer with his scout troop. They fell in love at first sight, and planned a getaway via mail, so they could get to know each other better.
I don’t want to tell you more than that about the plot of the film, because I really liked not knowing anything going in. This was a movie where the surprise of it was half of the fun, though there are no huge revelations or anything, no “I see dead people” moments. It’s more of a quiet surprise, and the surprise is how such a silly story can be sweet, and how the very real problems of these kids can fall into the background when confronted with the strength of their devotion to each other.
The performances in Moonrise Kingdom were all top rate. Bruce Willis plays the island sheriff who’s looking for the missing kids; Tilda Swinton is the social worker tasked with taking Sam away; and Ed Norton is the scoutmaster in charge when Sam makes his escape. The social worker was perhaps a little bit of a caricature, played for laughs at some level, but the rest of the characters were as true to life as any silly movie could expect. I say silly, but I mean it in the most affectionate term, because though the perils the children face are real and just a little dark, they are treated with a light hand, so nothing really detracts from the fun of it.
Moonrise Kingdom is directed by Wes Anderson, who is a hit and miss director for me. I really enjoyed Rushmore, but hated The Royal Tenenbaums, and I tried to watch The Fantastic Mr. Fox, but it bored the hell out of me, so I turned it off. I know most people LOVED both Tenenbaums and Mr. Fox, but whatever. I think Moonrise Kingdom is the best of the bunch.