The Best Films of the Decade: #36: Moonrise Kingdom (2012)

| December 6, 2019
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In just 25 days, the decade will come to a close and so for movie lovers like me it is an opportunity to look over the decade of movies that are left behind. Over the next few weeks I am going to count down the best films of the past 10 years from #40 to #1. My choices are personal choices swayed by nothing but the love I have for this medium. These are all great movies. These films all achieved something great. All reached for something special. They are the best of the decade . . .

Image result for Moonrise Kingdom

I’ll admit it. I was late to the party of Wes Anderson. His first few efforts like Bottle Rocket, Rushmore and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou left me rather cold – they were too busy being clever but without a context that I could really engage in.

Moonrise Kingdom was the first of his films that I found myself able to embrace. Yes, I found a great deal of joy in his angular visual style, both in his images, his characters and his dialogue, but this film in particular had something that I have never really detected in his other work: It has a heart.

The great element to the heart of Moonrise Kingdom is that Anderson doesn’t take you there, you have to find it on your own. For all intents and purposes, it is a coming-of-age story. It takes place – very fittingly – on an island where lies a scout camp name New Penzance. There we meet 12 year-old Sam, a shy introvert who meets Suzy, also 12-years old and a shy introvert who have been pen pals, formed a romance and have decided on a plan to run away together.

Okay, so that’s a plot that feels like a pitch meeting. But amid all of his visual trickery and clever dialogue the movie ebbs toward a story of two kids tipping at the age of confusion, when childhood and adolescence are all-too-slowly pushing at one another and neither Suzy nor Sam has the organic tools or maturity to know what how to sort them out. They linger on the edge of their last summer of true childhood and as they run away together are accosted – symbolically – with the threat of an oncoming hurricane.

What is special about Moonrise Kingdom was how involved I got in this story. It’s not very probable or very likely that these two kids could do what they do in this film (it’s not a large island but they manage to stay away far longer than any two 12-year-olds probably would). Told within the spectrum of Anderson’s comfort zones is the story of the scary reality that is to face Suzy and Sam. It’s a harsh world in which the well-meaning adult world will always intrude, and we sense that these two are better equipped to handle it than most. It’s a sweet love story, one that is not about the grand overarching gesture but the edge of innocence and the confusion of the harsh realities the lie ahead.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
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