Movie Review: Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is a tasty escape into an ordinary-magical world of a quirky bunch of pre-teens and their families in 1965. The film is highly-stylized, deeply amusing, and incredibly well-cast. The always unexpected writer-director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox) gives us a more-deadpan-than-“Napoleon Dynamite” romantic comedy. Involving twelve year olds.

Set on the New England coast, two precocious, oddball pre-teens find each other, and it’s love at first sight. So, what else should they do but elope? The boy (Sam) is a “Khaki Scout,” the girl (Suzy), a binocular-wielding reader of fantasy books. They are barely beyond the boys-are-yucky and girls-have-cooties stage, but they are definitely “in love” to the extent that young people of this tender age can be.

The way they look at each other is what John Paul II (in his Theology of the Body) would call “the peace of the interior gaze.” There is no lusting, there is no grasping or the base kind of self-centered physical excitement: just a deep penetration into each other’s souls. They seem to know each other already, even though they must make this knowing explicit by constant communication, questioning and explaining of themselves.

It gets a bit sexual at one point, but in a truly innocently curious way. Yes, you wouldn’t want young people getting the wrong idea that this is what they should be doing, or that this is even “normal” at twelve years old. But of course, young people today, especially girls, are physically maturing earlier and earlier, and living in our “pornified” culture, they are exposed to so much (often perverse) sexuality so young. SPOILER ALERT: When they wind up in their underwear after jumping into the lake, they try French kissing; Sam feels Suzy’s flat chest, Suzy notices that Sam is “hard” when they hug. That’s about it. It’s handled very naturally and somewhat discreetly. It’s parents’ call whether your child “needs” to see this. This film will, however, encourage kids to: be themselves, pursue hobbies, not follow the crowd, express themselves (in a “don’t hide your light” type of way), and be kind and loyal.

People are weird. People are unique. People don’t fit. And ultimately, the people in “Moonrise Kingdom” are okay with that and give each other some breathing room.

The end gets a bit chaotic, madcap and screwball, and doesn’t really work, but the closing scene—with a kind of new order restored—is well worth it. These two young lovers gently woke everyone up—without even meaning to.

Sister Helena Burns, fsp belongs to the Daughters of St. Paul, an international congregation of religious women dedicated to spreading God's Word through the media: www.pauline.org. She gives workshops to teens and adults on media, philosophy, and Theology of the Body and is the movie reviewer for The Catholic New World, Chicago's Catholic newspaper. You can follow her excellent blog, HellBurns at hellburns.blogspot.com.
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