Back into live action after his stop-motion excursion with Fantastic Mr Fox, Wes Anderson’s seventh film feels both utterly strange and entirely familiar.
Awash with pre-Vietnam innocence, this delicate portrait of first love and family dysfunction in 1965 New England is often as remote as its fictional island setting (‘New Penzance’), as Boy Scouts, Benjamin Britten and Bruce Willis are stirred into a melancholic melting pot.
Still, those au fait with Anderson’s folksy retro aesthetic will be struck by déjà vu from the opening scene, when the camera rigorously patrols the Bishop household (recalling the abode cut-away shots in The Life Aquatic, Fox, etc).
Twelve-year-old orphan boy Sam (Jared Gilman) feels like a distant cousin to Rushmore’s Max Fischer. And Suzy (Kara Hayward), the young Bishop girl Sam convinces to run away with him, could so easily be a Royal Tenenbaum.
While Anderson never strays from his comfort zone, his universe is so confidently realised you wonder why he needed Roman Coppola to co-write when he got stuck.
Giving chase to the runaways, Anderson newbies Edward Norton (Sam’s Scout Master) and Bruce Willis (the lonesome sheriff) sync well with the auteur’s world.
The sights (Robert D. Yeoman’s autumnal lensing) and sounds (music by Britten and Françoise Hardy) are as warming as Sam and Suzy’s idealistic romance.
True, Moonrise Kingdom’s fanciful, nostalgic tendencies won’t please everyone, while Harvey Keitel in a Scout uniform will unsettle most. But this may be Anderson’s most beautiful oddity yet.
Skimpy extras include Bill Murray’s (Suzy’s dad) deadpan set tour: “Bruce Willis plays a policeman… typecasting, I guess.”