Forget The Franchises, Go See Moonrise Kingdom

Courtesy: American Empirical Pictures/Indian Paintbrush/Focus Features

Moonrise Kingdom is one of the most peculiar yet deepest and most heartfelt movies of 2012.  It is a niche film, meaning it isn’t for everyone.  But it is still a story worth seeing.  Moonrise Kingdom is for all essential purposes, a coming of age story.  The short and simple is that Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward) are surrounded by dysfunction, and through simple correspondence, they run off together.  In the process, they learn about themselves and each other.

The coming of age story has been done and then some throughout Hollywood’s history.  But this story has completely set itself apart from all the other movies in that sub-genre.  Somehow, it managed to combine themes of love and overcoming adversity in a way that doesn’t bog down the story.  Both Suzy and Sam want love.  One has parents who don’t give her the love that she needs. The other is an orphan, so all he needs is love.  Top it all off by presenting each in a setting that’s rife with dysfunction, and it makes both Suzy and Sam very sympathetic characters.  That being the case, it makes the pair’s idealistic puppy love forgiveable.  For that matter, it actually makes the pair’s “relationship” more believeable and heartwarming, albeit a little bit seemingly dysfunctional in itself.

The story behind Moonrise Kingdom is deep and heartfelt in the long run.  It’s only one part of what makes this one of the year’s most underrated movies.  The cinematography really added to the film’s enjoyment.  There was something about the shooting style in this movie that made it stand out among the masses.  One example of that shooting style comes as Sam and Suzy are attempting to cross a stream.  The shot for this scene is somewhat grainy and imperfect.  Yet that imperfection makes it a wonderful shot.  It helps the surrounding scenery really stand out.  It’s just one of so many that any student of the film art will appreciate throughout the story.

Acting and cinematography are big parts of what make a movie great.  But another part of what makes a movie great is a soundtrack.  Far too often, movies just toss in a bunch of songs here and there that are in reality little more than background noise.  But in the case of Moonrise Kingdom, the story’s soundtrack is a whole part of the movie in itself.  In listening to the soundtrack alone, one doesn’t really catch the impact that the music has on the movie.  But in watching the movie with the soundtrack, it adds so much emotion from one scene to the next.  That even includes the addition of some classic Hank Williams, Sr. songs.  Composer Benjamin Britten’s “Heroic Weather-Conditions Of the Universe” suite is beautiful in itself.  And added to the story, it makes the scenes in which it is used that much more powerful. 

So much work went into making Moonrise Kingdom.  And it shows from every angle.  The story of what brought Sam and Suzy together makes their relationship at least somewhat understandable.  That story itself has so many layers.  Somehow, they manage to interweave without getting to be too much for the story.  The movie’s scenery, cinematography and soundtrack add layers all their own to what is already an interesting story.  Do they combine to make Moonrise Kingdom one of 2012’s best?  That’s debatable.  However, one thing can be said of Moonrise Kingdom.  And that is that at a time when movie studios are churning out nothing but prequels, sequels, and reboots, this movie has turned out to be one of the year’s most original and heartwarming (and slightly twisted) works.  Whether or not it’s among the year’s best is in the eye of the beholder.  But it is a breath of fresh air in a sea of franchises from studios that are too scared to take a chance on something original.

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