Wes Anderson brings Never Never Land to 1960s America with an all-superstar cast.
Even in their topsy-turvy island-town home, Sam Shukusky and Suzy Bishop (Jared Gilmore and Kara Hayward) feel like misfits. But when bed-wetting, pipe-smoking khaki scout Sam and misunderstood, binocular-gazing Suzy run away together, the whole community joins the hunt, led by Police Captain Sharp and Scout Master Randy Ward (Bruce Willis and Ed Norton).
As Suzy’s eccentric parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand) grow frantic, the pair evade capture thanks to Sam’s scouting skills – “suck a pebble if you’re thirsty; you can swallow the saliva to keep hydrated” – and are kept entertained by Suzy’s fantasy novels and toy record player. Their woodland sojourn culminates in a spectacularly cinematic beachside boogie wearing just their briefs, busting moves worthy of John Travolta and Uma Thurman or Serge Gainsbourg and Brigitte Bardot.
Recaptured but affirmably in love, the star-crossed campers face a fight to stay together, as the wicked witch, known only as ‘Social Services’ (Tilda Swinton), closes in on orphan Sam. Recreating Neverland, Anderson’s armed scouts roaming the island evoke memories of the lost boys, while bespectacled Gilmore and beautiful Hayward outshine their established co-stars as the dysfunctional but captivating Peter and Wendy.
The opening night film at Cannes, applauded and then some, Anderson co-wrote the screenplay for Moonrise Kingdom with Roman Coppola. Of course, the cast came running. Along with Anderson’s technical mastery and trademark sense of childlike wonder, there is subtlety in his storytelling. Hardman Willis is endearing as the kind-hearted cop, while Norton – equipped with some classically 60s short shorts – is the strict but hapless scout leader you wish you’d had.
For those lacking in imagination, the haphazard plot may prove a bit too bemusing. But for the child in you, who believes in happily ever after, young love that lasts a lifetime and Wes Anderson’s whims, it’s a cinematic rite of passage.
Moonrise Kingdom is out in UK cinemas today.
Text: Daniel Kilpatrick