Moonrise Kingdom, rated PG-13

Starring Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban

Austin Family critical rating: 5 of 5 stars
Austin Family Family-Friendly rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wes Anderson’s Moonrise Kingdom – the director’s first film since the should-have-been-Oscar-winning animated feature Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) – is the movie event of the summer. This is a poignant and hilarious picture that works remarkably well for both adult and young adult audiences; it’s hard to imagine someone not responding to this material. On a personal level, I haven’t been so deeply affected by one of Anderson’s films since The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), one of the last films I saw with my father before he passed away.

In a New England community in the 1960s, 12-year-old outcasts Suzy (Kara Hayward) and Sam (Jared Gilman) run away from home together, convinced beyond any doubt that they are in love (once on the adventure, they are aided by Sam’s considerable skills as a Khaki Scout). Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray and Frances McDormand are among the adults and parents leading a search-and-rescue mission to find Sam and Suzy. Willis and Norton, in particular, do some of their best work in years.

In this film, Anderson beautifully expresses both the joy and melancholy of first love. Even though Moonrise Kingdom does end on a positive note, there’s still a hint of a dissatisfied adulthood waiting for our protagonists by the end of their adventure. Whether Suzy and Sam end up together in the long run is irrelevant – their love will never feel as real and as powerful as it does in their memory. Their utopian “moonrise kingdom” is something the adults have long since abandoned, and soon enough, it will exist only in Suzy and Sam’s memories. Moonrise Kingdom is the only movie I’ve seen this year where a packed audience erupted in applause when the film ended. I would have joined them, but I was busy wiping tears from my eyes.

Jack Kyser is a graduate of Austin High School and New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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