Director Wes Anderson’s latest is exactly what this viewer expected: a hip, star-studded affair that is often a joy to behold, but inevitably comes up rather short in the depth department. Set in an idyllic 1965 that’s recreated in painstaking detail through the filter of a modern admirer, Moonrise Kingdom is a vintage fairy tale concerning a young (pre-teen young) couple in love: Sam, an orphaned Khaki Scout, and Suzy, a troubled ye ye fan. They live on an imaginary island, read imaginary fantasy novels, and travel through the landscape on imaginary maps. They met a year ago during a local performance of an artsy Noah’s Ark-like play (read The New Yorker‘s print review for an explanation of that), became quick penpals, and are now traversing the wooded terrain on a quest towards an angsty happiness. They’re pursued by Suzy’s quarrelsome parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s by-the-book scoutmaster (Edward Norton), and the local heartsick police chief (Bruce Willis). Bob Balaban also appears as the New England-dressed narrator, a character that allows Anderson plenty of room for jump cut-endorsing sequences of establishment. There is, of course, a delightful quirkiness to it all that will surely turn off some filmgoers, odds are you’ll get what you expect: long tracking shots of figures standing in straight lines, well-composed static shots, and a distinctive use of distinctive fonts. There are a few surprising moments of cartoon-like comedy that are endearing in their goofiness, and there’s a lovely bittersweetness to the unashamedly predictable ending…it’s all so cute and harmless that it’s difficult to complain.
Moonrise Kingdom opens today at the Ritz East.