Every few years, a movie comes along that excites a younger audience. The 1990s had “Titanic,” while in more recent years it was the “Twilight” franchise. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a film that might capitalize on the fame of the “Twilight” movies. Romantic films typically follow the same formula, regardless of the plot. The formula involves a young women who meets a man and falls in love, and then circumstances drive them apart. Some movies show the story from the young man’s point of view, such as “Youth in Revolt.” That film told the story of a young man willing to do whatever it took to win the girl of his dreams.
“Moonrise Kingdom” offers a unique twist on that story. The movie takes place in 1956, introducing the audience to Sam (newcomer Jared Gilman) and Suzy (newcomer Kara Hayward). The two fall madly in love, but they quickly realize that they cannot be together because of their parents. Director Wes Anderson (“Rushmore,” “The Royal Tenenbaums,” “Fantastic Mr. Fox”) combines his unique style with a traditional love story to create a piece that will appeal to adults and teens.
Part of what makes the film so interesting is the relationship between Sam and Suzy. They both feel like outsiders: Sam because his parents died and Suzy because she doesn’t get along with her family. The two live on an East Coast island, convinced that something better awaits them. When they begin exchanging letters, they decide that running away is their only option. Unlike other teen romances where the story involves a person that keeps them apart, Sam and Suzy are kept apart by their imaginations. They assume that their parents would never let them be together, so they take steps to run away before it can happen.
It doesn’t take long before the adults in the town realize that they are gone. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton, “American History X,” “The Incredible Hulk”) joins forces on the hunt with Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis, “Sin City,” “Die Hard”). Tilda Swinton (“Julia,” “Michael Clayton”) appears as a representative of Social Services without a name. Eventually, Laura (Frances McDormand, “Burn After Reading,” “Fargo”) and Walt (Bill Murray, “Ghostbusters,” “Lost in Translation”), Suzy’s parents decide to join the hunt.
“Moonrise Kingdom” shows the differences between adults and children. The adults assume that the children are in mortal danger and think that they are lost in the woods. The two are actually perfectly happy and content just to be together. As they make their home in the woods, they discover that it is the one place in the world where they feel normal.
Movies aimed at teens often take the outsider theme a little too far and make it unbelievable. Kristin Stewart, why played Bella Swan in the Twilight franchise, is a gorgeous young woman who the director encouraged fans to believe as an outsider. Casting agents often bury actors underneath fake glasses, teeth, and bad clothing to create the outsider look. “Moonrise Kingdom” does something different because it casts two actors in the awkward stage of adolescence, which makes them believable as outsiders.
“Moonrise Kingdom” is essentially the movie that other teen films try to be, complete with Anderson’s visual impact. Anderson gives the camera the type of fluid movement that directors much older than he can create. He creates lush backdrops and visually appealing landscapes that show the difference between the teens and the adults. The adults often appear in darker clothing or settings, while the teens frequently appear in lighter colors. Anderson literally shows the audience that the teens are the focus of the movie.
The movie does not have the kind of built-in audience and fan base that “Twilight” had, but it does have superior acting, directing, and dialogue. “Twilight” suffered from a few too many lingering glances and distance between the leads. “Moonrise Kingdom” is not bogged down by the need to keep the two leads apart. Within the first few minutes of seeing the actors on screen, viewers will find themselves rooting for the two and hoping that they find a way to each other.
The main difference between the two movies is that “Moonrise Kingdom” is firmly anchored in reality. While “Twilight” let viewers believe that a teenage girl and a vampire could fall in love, “Moonrise Kingdom” shows what happens after the two fall in love. The audience sees the hardships that the two face, including the way they annoy each other. The audience sees the two second guess their decision to run away together. “Moonrise Kingdom” shows that while teen love is possible, it is not as easy as the movies make it look.