Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13) is a movie I should not have liked. Disobedient children, clueless adults, really dangerous, absurd risks -- all things I squint my eyes at and avoid watching -- they were all in this movie.
Suzy lives in a household with brothers and semi-functional parents, and knows that her mother (Frances Dormand) is secretly hanging around with "that sad, stupid policeman." (Bruce Willis) Suzy has anger issues, and sometimes acts impulsively, not controlling her physical strength. A troubled child.
Sam is an odd kid, despised by his fellow scouts for being a weirdo, with a mysteriously disconnected home life. He spots Suzy at a church play, inappropriately sneaks into the girls' dressing room, and makes her acquaintance. His admiration of her, his lack of concern about rules, and his boldness resonate with her, and she slips him her address. They become pen pals, and plot to run away together.
They are twelve years old.
Their relationship is set against a 1965 New England backdrop, in which a huge hurricane is about to make landfall on the island on which they live. Unaware of this, Sam deserts the camp of the Khaki Scouts, armed to the teeth with survival gear. Suzy exits her parents' house with her little brother's battery-powered phonograph and a suitcase of stolen library books. The scout master, the local policeman, and the parents are all outraged and frantic with worry.
But Sam catches fish for them to eat after he pitches camp, and Suzy bewitches him by reading aloud from her books. They become a team; they find something in each other that helps them be less troubled kids; they find love.
The film is quite stylized in appearance and presentation, and for the most part, devoid of loud emotional outbursts. Indeed, I had to admire the young actors (Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman) for their nearly deadpan delivery of their lines that belied the emotion they were able to express.
It is an adventure film, and a romance; beautifully filmed, it is garnished liberally with sight gags and slapstick humor; there is pathos; there are things done that should never be done.
In thinking over this movie, I find myself shaking my head at parts of it: Oh, that was just wrong. But then I find myself smiling again and again at the two runaways, and how they felt they had to make their own way in the world.
Kind of calls to mind Bernie and I -- though we were 21 and not 12 -- and how we had to figure out how to make a life together, even though our parents were appalled and knew we had no idea what the world was about. But we, too, ran away and got married, and found something greater in the union than we ever could have attained separately.
And that, I guess, is what, for me, made this movie a winner.
So, Moonrise Kingdom is one of those movies that the movie industry distributor people deemed unsuitable for our area. Don't know what there reasons were, although I am convinced more and more that they think we are dumb out here -- if you do not live within twenty-five miles or so of the beach in California, they think you have carnal relations with farm animals, or worse, that you are a politician in Sacramento, and therefore you can not appreciate movies that are the least bit artsy.
Of course "they" seem to have forgotten that we have a movie subscription service that can deliver movies to us in the mail or online and can therefore have instant access to movies like The Human Centipede II, a film that critic Roger Ebert describes as "reprehensible, dismaying, ugly, artless and an affront to any notion, however remote, of human decency." You'd think that one would play well in Sacramento. So while it is a bit late, Sand and I finally got to see Moonrise Kingdom.
I have to admit I don't know what to think of this movie. I felt like I was seeing slickly done movie of a grade school Thanksgiving pageant. There is a narrator to set the scene, hand-painted cardboard stage props, and earnest actors stiffly but seriously reading their lines. Oddly, this creates a kind of intimacy with the characters, kind of like watching your own kids up there on the screen. In the school auditorium, the audience is relieved of the necessity to be critical and doesn't expect to be entertained; its role is to be supportive of the efforts of the children, to help tell the story by being receptive. Moonrise Kingdom manages through quirky acting and carefully contrived settings to achieve this same kind of feeling, and so you root for the good guys and hiss at the bad guys and are warmed by the innocent earnestness of the portrayals. At the end of the movie you want to wait for the actors to come down from the stage and give them big hugs and tell them they were probably the best turkeys the county has ever seen, and you find, just like in the school auditorium, that you are indeed entertained simply by the process of storytelling itself.
As to the story, I think Sand did an excellent job of describing it, and I would even agree with her reaction to the story. There is something about it that captures a truth about love. The experience of Suzy and Sam of finding the one person through whom the beauty of the world can finally be realized is one that seems incredibly real to me. My guess is that Suzy and Sam grow up, move to California and do movie reviews for a weekly e-zine.
Is that good movie making? I'm not sure. Is it entertaining? Yes, it is. Is it worth seeing? Very definitely.