Making the Grades
When you view a lot of movies it’s difficult to keep up with who-made-what. But within 15 minutes of watching Moonrise Kingdom my brain immediately thought of the stop-frame animation Fantastic Mr. Fox. And no wonder. Director Wes Anderson is the father of both of these films, and variety of other cinematic experiences that have attracted the word “quirky” en masse. (Try putting his name and quirky into a Google search box…)
With similar determined as the aforementioned fox, this film introduces us to two indomitable young adolescents living on a fictitious New England island called Penzance. It is 1965 and Sam (Jared Gilman) is an orphan spending the summer with his scout group. In his brain he’s an adult, which doesn’t make him an easy fit with the rest of the boys. Meanwhile on the other side of the small piece of dirt is Suzy (Kara Hayward), a perfectly primped young lady who resides in a lighthouse with her parents and three younger brothers.
Even though a good chunk of the land separates Sam and Suzy, that hasn’t prevented their strong attraction. Completely smitten with each other since they first met a year earlier while the young girl was in a play, they have been writing letters to one another and are even planning an elopement. Trusting her young man knows his way about in the wilderness, Suzy rendezvous with him wearing her best shoes and a miniskirt while toting a suitcase full of books and a battery operated record player.
After a day of wandering the couple sets up camp on a secluded beach, strips down to their underwear and go swimming. Later Sam presents his fiancée with a pair of fishhook earrings that he uses to pierce her ears. That’s followed by some dancing on the beach, a little French kissing and some brief fondling (while still wearing underwear, Suzy tells Sam he can feel her breasts).
Meanwhile a storm is brewing—metaphorically and literally. The girl’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), Sam’s scoutmaster (Edward Norton), the Khaki Scout group and the local sheriff (Bruce Willis) are on the hunt for the runaways. Their success early the next morning provides a rude awakening for the young lovebirds, but their capture doesn’t deter them from looking for other opportunities to pursue their courtship.
Along with the extended section of the movie where the twelve-year-olds are seen in their underwear, viewers also see watercolor painting of a nude girl with a bare breast that Sam has created to express how he imagines Suzy. Other content issues involve a married woman who admits to having an affair after being questioned by her daughter, and young boys speculating about Sam and Suzy’s sexual relationship. Violence includes a scuffle between young boys and a girl that ends with one of them being stabbed with scissors (the bloody injury is shown) and a pet dog is shot with an arrow. Verbal outbursts between adults and kids occur regularly. And the script contains profanities, infrequent sexual comments, mild obscenities, terms of deity and name-calling.
It’s safe to say that if you saw Anderson’s Mr. Fox and thought it was funny, you’ll likely find humor in the many of the sight gags and situations in this film too. While it Moonrise Kingdom isn’t an animation, its fanciful art direction makes virtually every scene a treat to visually explore. Yet, sadly, this movie’s movie collection of somewhat dysfunctional adults and all-knowing children will likely come up short for audiences that would prefer to enjoy artistic these merits without all the hormones.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Moonrise Kingdom.
What commentary does Moonrise Kingdom offer about the way adults resolve problems versus children? Why do you think the creator of this film chose to set it in 1965? Would we feel differently about this depiction if it were set in the present?