Let’s face it: Netflix has a Queue capacity of 500 titles for a reason. We browse, we see something interesting, we add it, then it’s promptly forgotten, until eventually the wealth of titles sitting there that we know we’re supposed to be interested in is just too overwhelming. If only there were someone willing to watch all those movies for us, both old and new, and let us know which ones were really worth our time. If only there were someone willing to go… Through the Queue.
This week’s choice: Moonrise Kingdom
Moonrise Kingdom is strongly reminiscent of The Royal Tenenbaums not simply because both were written and directed by Wes Anderson, or because both feature an all-star cast, or even because both present an orphaned antagonist. The characters of the quirky adults (with their odd dialogue and inexplicable life choices) are as strong here as have ever been in an Anderson film, the results of which deliver perhaps the most clear and concise message from this director to date.
The movie features orphan Sam Shakusky, who meets a kindred spirit in the emotionally troubled early-teen Suzy Bishop. Together the two hatch a plan to run away from a society in which neither of them belong, embracing a juvenile love that, while railed against by “sensible” adults, eventually becomes the only sane thing on the small New England island.
Genuine moments of odd hilarity are rife here, stemming mostly from the actions of the adults which seem absurd when placed in a context anywhere but inside the movie. As an example, in one particular scene Bill Murray’s character, half dressed with a bottle of wine in one hand, enters a closet, emerges with an axe, stops to look at his children playing on the floor and says drolly, “I’m going to go find a tree to chop down.” You know and understand his motivation, and can’t help but laugh at the objective absurdity; and so goes the rest of the humor in the movie.
Suzy’s parents, the scout master responsible for Sam, the island’s police captain and a Social Services worker scour the island to find the two runaways, all as the story unfolds in ways that gradually highlight the fact that every adult character is most often referred to not as a person, but as their societal role.
In acting out their parts, each adult expresses mistrust, distaste, or otherwise exerts effort in separating the two young lovers, absolutely insistent that, as adults, they possess a greater wisdom and knowledge of life than any two children could know. Yet all these instances are provided with a counterpoint, where the two children, through simple dialogue, handily expose the foibles of each person, ultimately winning them (and the audience) over to the children’s cause.
Most clever of all is the moment where you realize, sitting there staring at the screen, that you, as an adult, are making that transition too. Often in watching tragedy we’re taught to expect the worst of circumstances, and can see, as a rational person, the dangers and perils the children are constantly in as they go traipsing through the woods, or run through “Lighting Field” holding onto something metal. The movie casually resolves the minor conflicts in realistic ways, almost laughing at your tension, making you feel a bit foolish for having thought for a second, “This is dangerous, someone’s going to die.”
While there’s an element of the magical, every instance of the movie (and the actions of the adults) are believable to the point where it can all be accepted and quickly understood from their perspective. Slowly then, by the end of the film it begins to dawn on you: much like the adults in the movie, perhaps in our own lives our endless worrying does not protect us from tragedies we only imagine are lurking around every corner, but instead it is our constant caution which causes the real deprivation, in refusing to be bold enough to participate in life’s adventures.
If you’re a fan of Wes Anderson, or have enjoyed even a single one of his titles, then Moonrise Kingdom absolutely shouldn’t be missed. It is, by far, his best.