Moonrise Kingdom is the latest film from director Wes Anderson (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Fantastic Mr. Fox) who leads a star-studded cast including Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Jason Schwartzman, Bob Balaban, and in a nice cameo role, Harvey Keitel. The story centers around two 12-year-olds - played by Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward - who regard themselves as misfits, but find kinship and a budding romance with each other on the island of New Penzance.
It's the summer of 1965 on the island of New Penzance, and in just three days time a storm will come that will ravage the small island community. In the meantime, Scoutmaster Ward (Norton) is busy keeping order in his Khaki Scouts ranks, when he discovers that 12-year-old scout Sam Shakusky has "flew the coop", running off to rendezvous with his love interest Suzy. The two of them have decided to run away together, forging a new life for themselves on the island. The duo met the previous year, and have maintained a rigorous pen-pal relationship every since, finding in each other a kindred spirit understanding of the other's frequently troubled escapades. Sam is an orphan living in an all-boys home, while Suzy tries to understand her outsider tendencies while ruing her mother's (McDormand) affair with the island police chief (Willis) and growing distance from her aloof father (Murray).
When news gets out that the duo have run off, all parties venture out to find them at once. Scoutmaster Ward must continually remind his Khaki Scouts that this is a "non-violent" search-and-rescue mission, while the island historian (Balaban) is pretty sure that the two are simply retracing the historic migration route of the Chickchaw Indians. Suzy's parents are trying to figure out how this could have happened, while Scoutmaster Ward and the police chief try to figure out how to keep young Sam out of the evil clutches of Social Services (Swinton) once he is found. Oh, and that storm that's brewing? Yeah, that's probably a metaphor (as well as an actual storm).
The nice thing about this film is that it treats the non-adult characters as adults, as equals. And in fact, the film is anchored from their viewpoint. While the trials and adventures of both the young lovers and the scout troops might seem quirky or be easily dismissed (as they often are) by the adults, they are very real and grave to those young lovers and scout troops. They're dealing with broken home lives, they're discovering love and acceptance, and they're occasionally thinking very seriously - over by the trampoline - about their decision to get married. And in fact, it would be easy to make this exact same story a brooding melodrama; I can only imagine that a Scandinavian director has this in the works even as we speak. But instead, Wes Anderson focuses on their un-jaded honesty and dreams, still with a twinge of wide-eyed wonder, and in return rewards them with an adventure.