With a style that resembles a series of Joseph Cornell-like miniature boxes, the director’s follow-up to The Fantastic Mr. Fox may as well have been an animated feature, the broadly-drawn but very specific characters all part of his insular universe, this one located on a mythical New England island threatened with imminent extinction by a Hurricane Sandy-like storm.
First-timers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward play a pair of star-crossed would-be lovers whose romantic machinations set the plot in motion, older and younger than their adolescence, sporting a pseudo-sophisticated innocence at odds with the world-weariness of the adults around them.
A downbeat Bill Murray and sharp-tongued Frances McDormand are Suzy’s parents, who barely notice she’s missing from the house until made aware by Willis’ earnest policeman Captain Sharp and Edward Norton’s cigarette-puffing Scout Master Ward, treading a fine line between parody and pretension.
Like English composer Benjamin Britten’s recording of The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, which introduces the various instruments that go into a single musical piece, Moonrise Kingdom is a symphony, each cast member providing the requisite tone, reflecting the triumph of teamwork and community. Anderson also intersperses Hank Williams songs, mirroring the film’s balance of high and low culture into a perfectly calibrated middle.
Adding to the mix are Bob Balaban’s omniscient on-screen narrator, Tilda Swinton’s prim bureaucrat aptly named Social Services, Jason Schwartzman’s rambunctious Cousin Ben and an unbilled Harvey Keitel as the imperious Commander Pierce, all playing roles in Anderson’s carefully circumscribed universe.
Caught between nostalgia and future shock, trying to make sense of a clockwork mechanism that threatens to roll off the rails, the young lovers seek happiness while keeping disaster at bay.
It’s an apt metaphor for these perilous times, where technology threatens to obliterate all that’s come before it, as we desperately seek that special someone to shield us from the inevitable.