“Moonrise Kingdom” takes place in 1965 on the fictional island of New Penzance, a place whose history (and weather) is dutifully explained by Bob Balaban in the role of a kind of narrator/historian. New Penzance is noted as being off the coast of Rhode Island, where much of the movie was actually filmed.
Our central characters are a pair of 12-year-old kids, Sam and Suzy, played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward. I don’t know how many 12-year-olds were auditioned for these roles, but these two young actors perfectly bring their quirky characters to life in a way that is both factual and surreal. You see, Sam and Suzy have fallen in love after a pen pal relationship, and have decided to escape into the woods of Penzance together. Sam, who is orphaned, is a skilled member of the Kahki Scouts, so his talents in the wild assure them safe passage. Suzy is the disenfranchised daughter of two attorneys, played by Bill Murray and Frances McDormand, who live on the island.
To them, their daughter is an enigma. To Suzy, her parents are the types that would inspire a kid to run away.
Edward Norton appears as the clueless, chain-smoking Kahki Scout leader.
Bruce Willis is the police chief on the island, who also happens to be having an affair with Suzy’s mom.
As Sam and Suzy flee from the scouts, parents, the police chief, and a children’s welfare official, a major weather event hits the island adding an edge of suspense and action to this otherwise very measured and straight-forward story. The film is a lot like life, unreal at times and yet very substantive when it comes to making circumstances unfold based on our own actions. “Moonrise Kingdom” is a very agreeable and original little film by Director Wes Anderson that uses a varied musical score that fits the story and the charcters nicely. A visit to Penzance is one you won’t soon forget.
Perhaps, as this movie suggests, young love is the only kind that really works.