August 3, 2012


After reading my review, you may wanna hop down to see an in-depth conversation with some level-headed, movie-loving, movie-going parents who saw MK and are very concerned about the "underwear scene." Some serious food for thought. After much consdiration, I agree with them. The underwear scene and then upskirt shot of the 12-year-old girl crawling into the tent goes to far. And mars the entire film.

“Moonrise Kingdom” is a tasty escape into an ordinary-magical world of a quirky bunch of pre-teens and their families in 1965. MK is highly-stylized, deeply-amusing and incredibly well-cast: Bill Murray! Edward Norton! Frances McDormand! Bruce Willis! Tilda Swinton! Jason Schwartzman! Harvey Keitel! Just sit back and enjoy. The always unexpected writer-director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox) gives us a more-deadpan-than-“Napoleon Dynamite” romantic comedy. Involving twelve year olds.

Set on the New England coast, two precocious (but not precious), oddball pre-teens find each other, and it’s love at first sight. So, what else should they do but elope? The boy (Sam) is a “Khaki Scout,” the girl (Suzy), a binocular-wielding reader of fantasy books. They are barely beyond the boys-are-yucky and girls-have-cooties stage, but they are definitely “in love” to the extent that young people of this tender age can be. They act and talk like they’re twelve going on thirty-seven—not because they’re trying so hard, but because that’s really how they feel. And they have something so special between them.

The way they look at each other is what John Paul II (in his Theology of the Body) would call “the peace of the interior gaze.” There is no lusting, there is no grasping or the base kind of self-centered physical excitement: just a deep penetration into each other’s souls. They seem to know each other already, even though they must make this knowing explicit by constant communication, questioning and explaining of themselves.

It gets a bit sexual at one point, but in a truly innocently curious way. Yes, you wouldn’t want young people getting the wrong idea that this is what they should be doing, or that this is even “normal” at twelve years old, but of course, young people, especially girls, are physically maturing earlier and earlier, and living in our “pornified” culture, they are exposed to so much (often perverse) sexuality so young. What MK portrays is neither pornified nor perverse. It is probabaly akin to how precocious young people might have experienced puberty in the past. What exactly transpires? SPOILER ALERT: When they wind up in their underwear after jumping into the lake: they try French kissing, Sam feels Suzy’s flat chest (Suzy is wearing a flat bra), Suzy notices that Sam is “hard” when they hug. That’s about it. It’s handled very naturally and somewhat discreetly. What might be "cute, funny or sweet" to adults could give younger people ideas to try to imitate. It’s parents’ call whether your child “needs” to see this. There's also which eliminates objectionable scenes/language in films so that the whole family can watch a movie together at home. (As a film purist, I hate seeing films butchered this way, but if you've got kids? This will often be the only way you can watch films as a family.) This film will, however, encourage kids to: be themselves, pursue hobbies, not follow the crowd, express themselves (in a "don't hide your light" type of way), and be kind and loyal.

The set direction is like something from “Mad Men,” i.e., a meticulous re-creation of the 1960’s: phonographs, TANG, model planes, everyone READS, everyone smokes, the switchboard operator lady. Everyone knows who they are, what they are, what’s expected of them, and social norms are taken very much for granted and more or less enthusiastically embraced. But the human “unknown” factor bubbles up everywhere. People are weird. People are unique. People DON’T fit. And ultimately, the people in “Moonrise Kingdom” are OK with that and give each other some breathing room.

There are many wonderful, wonderful themes for young people (and everyone else). It’s NOT the same old overused: “It’s OK to be different!” “We should respect differences!” “True love knows no age!” “The adults are as screwed up as the kids! Actually MORE screwed up!” The themes, and this film itself is about something more profoundly and fundamentally human. You will giggle quietly to yourself throughout the WHOLE darn thing. (One older guy in my sparsely-populated theater was guffawing at every little filmic “touch.” It was evident that Wes Anderson--born in 1969--had thoroughly captured an era that this man had thoroughly lived.) And who IS that old narrator guy who keeps filming himself (with horrible framing and lighting) and occasionally enters the story? Oh, we love this stuff, don’t we? Speaking of “framing”—the camerawork in MK is innovative along the lines of a film like “Tree of Life.” It uses the versatile, almost boundless visual medium of film to much fuller capacity than is usually attempted. Not SPFX-wise, but simply POV-wise and storytelling-wise. There are lots of dolly shots. The camera just keeps on going and going in a straight line OR darts back and forth on that line to eavesdrop on little knots of characters. Nothing is trite and everything delights. Mise-en-scene? This is how it’s done. I think I’m in Wes Anderson’s “camp” on cinematography.

Only postmodern-day uber-self-consciousness could have created such a seemingly simple, straightforward, talking film about a bygone era for sophisticated, media-savvy audiences. In some ways, the story is cast in a quasi-military milieu (the scouts and the police and the State), and there are definite “Lord of the Flies” overtones. The end gets a bit chaotic, madcap and screwball, unravels, and DOESN’T really work (even the scenery becomes extremely fake), but the closing scene—with a kind of new order restored—is well worth it. These two young lovers gently woke everyone up—without even meaning to.

Do yourself a favor and see this film.


--Wes Anderson keenly depicts a more elevated, educated, good diction and ability-to-express-oneself-verbally syntax among the characters from a (not so long ago) print/word-based society. MK made me really long for a “simpler” time without all the visual/electronic media! There are no TVs, headsets, blinking/glowing screens or isolated people in MK. THE PRE-MEDIATED LIFE. The fact that Americans spoke much more eloquently and coherently and elegantly in the 60’s really came home to me when I watched the documentary “Inquiring Sisters” (two nuns let loose with movie cameras on the streets of Chicago in 1968). Ordinary folks sound like orators!

--Roman Coppola was a co-writer.


--The “marriage” scene.

--Most used lines by every character: "It's true." "That's true."

--COMING ATTRACTIONS: That is one heck of a trailer for the Denzel Washington thriller: “Flight.” One heck.

--“Sunday school shoes.”

--Indian drums soundtrack.

--The BIG SIN of the 60’s: overdue library books! ha ha ha.

--Sam and Suzy’s correspondence.

--Sam and Suzy have no friends.

--Suzy’s eye makeup.

--Suzy’s violent streak.

--The violence of the scouts.

--You NEVER know what is going to come out of these characters’ mouths.

--“I love you, but you don’t know what you’re talking about.”

--The kid with the family wants to be an orphan. The orphan wants a family.

--Reading OUT LOUD. Oh, how I miss READING OUT LOUD.

--“Poor Suzy, why is everything so hard for you?”

--The Bruce Willis man-to-man talk with Sam. Priceless.

--Mom’s woman-to-woman talk with Suzy. Priceless.

--Women “want it all.” Women want everything. Women want so much.

--WEIRD SYMBIOSIS: Suzy is the older redheaded sister with three little pint-sized brothers. (“Brave”)

--Wes Anderson has a very strong sense of family. Perhaps because he called his parents’ divorce: "the most crucial event of my brothers and my growing up".


  1. I love your reviews. You see the good in almost everything, even when there is just about none to be seen (which apparently does not apply to the above film!) I am one of those parents who will make a call not to see the film in theaters because of the scene described above, but will look forward to being able to Clear Play it when it comes out on DVD. It's true, this kind of thing is everywhere, so I avoid providing it to my kids myself. But once we get it on DVD, I think we'll really enjoy it!

    1. Thanks! And thanks for the reminder about "Clear Play"--a lot of fams with various-aged kids swear by this so that they can all watch films together! :]

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