Skip to main content

The Beauty of Awkward Adolescence in Moonrise Kingdom

moonrise kingdom, coming of age

I love movies that bring out the awkward pre-teen in me--really, who wasn't an awkward teenager?

Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Rushmore) provides just that sort of quirky nostalgia with his latest film, Moonrise Kingdom. Take The Little Rascals, fast forward them into adolescence, and you've got this 1960's New England island adventure that rekindles old memories of school plays, scout days, and dreams of running away from the realities of life as you knew it.

The film features a star-studded cast. Bruce Willis plays New Penzance Island's one and only lonely sheriff. Edward Norton is a small scout troop leader with warm ambition. Billy Murray and Frances McDormand portray well-meaning parents in a troubled but loving marriage.

But the heart of the story centers around two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. Seems like a cheesy and predictable disaster waiting to happen until you realize you've grossly underestimated the young boy's (Sam) determined scout skills and the young girl's (Suzy) desires for an unusual, fantastical, and at times hazardous, experience. That Sam is an AWOL scout who has abandoned his troop, and that Suzy packs a record player and overdue library books into her suitcase (no extra outfits), makes these runaways' ability to survive surprising, even charming.

This plot is more subdued than in his previous films, but Anderson's signature attention to detail, colorful composition, and whimsical vintage styling make Moonrise Kingdom accessible to an audience that might have forgotten what it was like to be awkward and prepubescent.

Although Moonrise Kingdom is rated PG-13, watching it with younger folk may inspire misconceived notions that running away with your 12-year-old crush is not only OK, but also safe and doable. But if you've ever played make believe in your bedroom or backyard, lived in a treehouse, camped out under the stars, made imaginary or concrete plans to run away from home with your dream boy or girl, look to Moonrise Kingdom to reawaken that once awkward dreamer in you, at least for these 1 hour and 33 glorious minutes. You'll look back and appreciate when you thought you knew it all.

(image via booooooom)