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"Moonrise Kingdom": Young Love, Wes Anderson-Style 

Wednesday, May 30 2012

It's 1965, the rainy end of summer on the rocky coast of a fictional New England isle. Twelve-year-old Sam (Jared Gilman), a scrawny outcast, disappears from the Khaki Scout camp, leaving behind a "resignation" letter for scoutmaster Randy Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy (Kara Hayward), a just-pubescent bad seed, disappears from her own home. Though her distracted lawyer parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) are initially none the wiser, soon enough, Suzy's mom finds a box of "intimate" correspondence between the two kids — who met once, the summer before — suggesting they have run away together. Aided by what remains of Ward's troop ("It's a chance to do some first-class scouting!"), the grown-ups, including Bruce Willis's Captain Sharp, mobilize to find the fugitive young lovers. Moonrise Kingdom takes the form of old-fashioned pre-teen literature, but, as everything made by Wes Anderson, does so knowingly. The escape Sam engineers for the pair is dangerous and crazy, but it's also a way for the boy — an orphan on the verge of being dumped by his foster family — to exercise control, and to show off to a receptive audience. Suzy doesn't have it so bad at home, but Sam's flattering gaze gives her something she isn't getting, and now won't easily be able to live without. This romance is thrown into relief by the quiet despair of the adults in Moonrise. Lonely, even — or particularly — when not alone, the grown-ups have long ago given up on the possibility of transformative love. Their melancholy situates Anderson's fantasy in reality.

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Karina Longworth

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