Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Moonrise Kingdom



Reaction with spoilers and some review:

Moonrise Kingdom (2012) is a romantic fantasy of two 12-year-olds, outcast Sam and alienated Suzy, who become an in-group of two that changes the world. Their love story is set in a meticulously crafted diorama by Wes Anderson and takes as its motif children's stories - tall tales, boy's adventures, fables, and fairy tales. It has the feel of a childhood memory inside a children's story that is both exaggerated and simplistic. Using precise tableaus that evoke Norman Rockwell, a perfectly tuned soundtrack, and deft embellishments of Big Fish magical realism that could be drawn from Suzy's treasured storybooks, Anderson captures the heightened sense at the end of childhood and the transformative power of first love. It's a timeless theme.

The sad lesson of Moonrise Kingdom is the window of opportunity for the innocent, idealized love story I've desperately yearned for passed me by when I was 12 years old. And, I should have manned up and asked out Dora at the start of 9th grade the moment my crush on her sparked and then led her along. Reification is a process of mastery learning goal orientation, growth mindset, and praxis. Suzy kind of reminds me of Dora, style-wise. Dora wasn't prone to going berserk, of course. What prevented me with Dora was my crippling anxiety-infused performance goal orientation and fixed mindset, in contrast to Sam's irrepressible mastery learning goal orientation and growth mindset. Note the cusp-of-adolescent couple's basic attraction and the masculine fundamentals of Sam's boldness, practical competence, irrational self-confidence (which compensates for his age-appropriate stumbles), and leadership with Suzy. Sam initiates with a bold approach to Suzy in the church dressing room, creates the frame of their relationship, and carries their interaction throughout their first day together while Suzy is nervous and uptight. From there, Sam brings his improbable romantic fantasy to life armed with no more (and no less) than his will, risk-everything commitment, verve, abilities, and most importantly, buoyed by Suzy's faithful support. At twelve, Sam also drinks beer and smokes a pipe.

Suzy responds to Sam's bold approach with an unambiguous indicator of interest, and her note to Sam formally begins their courtship. For Suzy, New Penzance Island is her home and she can hold her own with the intrepid Khaki Scout, but she doesn't compete with Sam in his assumed expertise nor challenge him on his audacious plan to run away together. Rather, while she notices and lightly comments on his sometimes questionable reasoning, Suzy leaves the planning and operation of the adventure to Sam, who rewards her faith in him. Instead, Suzy complements Sam by bringing all the things - her storybooks, music, kitten, and feminineness - that beautify the experience and turn Sam's camp into the couple's home. Suzy's distinctive eye make-up (according to Kara Hayward) is an infatuated young girl's awkward try at impressing her first crush. She wears her mother's perfume for him and he notices. They know each other from their letters, and their openness carries over as they get to know each other in person. Suzy is vulnerable, softly feminine, and receptive only for Sam, and cold or hostile to everyone else. She's more than able and willing to fight alongside Sam, as Redford finds out painfully, and doesn't fight with Sam. It doesn't matter to her that he may wet the bed, doesn't always agree with her, and is sometimes insensitive. She follows his lead and trusts him with her fears and loves, and her life. When he asks for her approval, she gives it. Sam pierces Suzy's ear, she gasps in pain and bleeds, then asks him to pierce her other ear. Gee. She wants him and that makes all the difference.

The possibility that Sam and Suzy had sex following the beach scene isn't foreclosed. With Suzy's history of hurting herself and fearlessness over Sam piercing her ears with fish hooks, giving her virginity to Sam may not be a scary thought for Suzy. Their fated first encounter, Sam's bold initial approach, Suzy's reactive attraction and invitation to correspond, the soulful and intellectual connection as "very intimate" pen pals, then the build-up of comfort and intimacy in person while they bare their souls and share their true selves, and finally the body connection to consummate their spiritually full love - all taking place within a private space nearly free of interference - is a typical romantic ideal construction. Sam and Suzy confess their mutual love on the higher spiritual plane of the overlook, then on the physical plane of the beach below, quickly escalate from dancing to kissing, to french kissing, to full body hugging in their underwear, to Suzy remarking "it feels hard" and (she's a little taller than Sam) "I like it", to the now sexually sure Sam taking charge of their next french kiss, to the sexually awakened Suzy inviting Sam to feel her chest. Anderson uses the same close-up shots of Sam and Suzy's faces in their second french kiss as in their meeting in the meadow, implying they're crossing a critical threshold. With Le Temps d'Amour continuing to play in the background, the scene then cuts from the afternoon to evening with Suzy looking natural, relaxed, and vaguely more grown up. Given the rapid escalation of their sexual contact, which both of them take turns advancing, with no clear indication it ended with Sam's hands on Suzy's chest, Sam and Suzy may have consummated their idealized love off-camera.

Suzy back at Summer's End, heart-broken, plaintively to her mom, "We're in love. We just want to be together. What's wrong with that?" Suzy's feminine bonds to Sam's masculine in Moonrise Kingdom and her place is now with him, wherever he goes. She's his girl.



Moonrise Kingdom's beautifully tender epilogue. The following autumn, Suzy's kitten has matured (yeah, gee) and Suzy is wearing Sam's fiery searcher beetle scarab fishhook earrings. Their love is now unhurried and mellow. She's his wife. Her slight nod and hand resting gently on his back, her soft liquid and his rapt gaze, his whispered "See you tomorrow", and her quiet blown kiss to her husband is the pitch-perfect hopeful note to release the enchanted audience from the love story.

The achingly wistful Cuckoo is the perfect accompaniment for the epilogue, but the meaning is ambiguous. Its lyrics are about growing up and going away, which could mean that Sam and Suzy's love is fated to dissolve into a childhood memory in which ordinary life (Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet) was made into extraordinary love (Moonrise Kingdom) for a magical moment before the world (the storm) washed it away. Sam and Suzy have tomorrow, but maybe that's all they have. I prefer the optimistic interpretation that the story takes place in September while Cuckoo's "away I must" is in August, which means the epic fight for their love was their April-to-August growing up and going away, and their final destination is their marriage. Although Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet is gone, Sam's painting as the last image of the movie says Moonrise Kingdom lives on at summer's end.

Moonrise Kingdom sneaks in themes beside the love story. Anderson depicts childhood as a comfortably familiar, if not always happy, cocoon, around which the lurking hard edges of the adult world loom, most of all in the other children. Redford is a charismatic sociopath who makes Sam his enemy for no particular reason and is nonchalant about Snoopy's death. The weapons wielded by the scout posse at Redford's urging are deadly, and the off-camera clash that ends with Redford stabbed and Snoopy killed could have been far bloodier. The intimidating complexity and size of Hullabaloo and Fort Lebanon preview the impersonal machine of the adult world that awaits them.

The disillusionment and alienation of adulthood is a Wes Anderson convention and Moonrise Kingdom is no exception. The desolate loneliness of the adults stands out sharply from the camaraderie of the children. Sam and Suzy's love is a beacon that reveals the emptiness of Captain "Duffy" Sharp's affair with Laura Bishop and the desert of the Bishops' marriage.

The movie looks at positives of the adult world, too. Despite Suzy's parents' failing marriage and struggle with their daughter's problems, they love her. It meditates on the good in men with traditional authority, such as Scout Master Randy Ward and Captain Sharp, who do their duty, bring order, and protect their wards. Men are the romantics in Moonrise Kingdom. Cousin Ben is a principled romantic - for a fee. Captain Sharp empathizes with Sam's love for Suzy, whereas Laura Bishop does not understand Suzy's love for Sam.

Commentary about masculinity abounds in Moonrise Kingdom, and Bill Murray's virtuoso Walt Bishop is the chief cautionary tale. He's outwardly successful, a lawyer married to a lawyer, owner of a spacious house, and father to four smart, physically healthy children. But as Walt says self-pityingly to Laura in their bedroom, "That's not enough." Walt yearns for his wife's love that he fails to inspire in Laura in sharp contrast to the ferocious feminine love that Sam inspires in Suzy. The contrast between Walt and Laura's relationship and Sam and Suzy's relationship is sharp and manifold, from the married couple's separate beds contrasted with the young couple's shared tent to Laura's open doubting of Walt contrasted with Suzy's unquestioning faith in Sam. As a man, Walt is fundamentally weak, and he knows that's to blame for the pathetic state of his life. Walt knows Laura cuckolds him, she and Captain Sharp know he knows, yet he declines to confront them about it. He's marginalized as a patriarch inside his home and feels helpless with his daughter, who openly defies him. When the searchers find Moonrise Kingdom, Walt feebly leaves it to Laura to drag their daughter away from the strange boy at the beach. By his own physical measure, at least 3 days are needed to reach Summer's End by miniature canoe from Camp Ivanhoe. Laura disputes this, knowing a real man can make the trip a lot faster, and indeed, Sam and the Troop 55 rescue party need less than a day to make the journey. In the first search for Sam and Suzy, Walt helplessly stumbles outdoors where the men and boys of the island are comfortable, which he is reminded of by Scout Master Ward's assurance that Suzy is safe in the wilderness with Sam. All the "beige lunatics" of Troop 55 are, as boys, superior to Walt by the fundamental masculine standard. When Walt chops through a tree, that stays standing, it is either another expression of impotence or a turning point for Walt connecting with the masculine essence of New Penzance Island.

As a statement on the importance of integration and solidarity, Sam longs for his own family and admonishes Suzy's discontent with her family. Sam doesn't find his family with the Khaki Scouts and Billingsley Boys Home, but does find it with Suzy and Captain Sharp. The social environment of the allegorical New Penzance Island is imbued with a pre-modern homogenous character reminiscent of M. Night Shyamalan's The Village (minus the superstitious terror of hog monsters). The diegetic normative order is most strongly represented in the strict social standards of the militaristic Khaki Scouts. As shown by Cousin Ben and Skotak, who go to extraordinary lengths to help Sam and Suzy, the Khaki Scouts are not over-regulated. They are markedly individualistic within their norms and independent thinkers and doers. While appearing at first to be repressive, the fraternal integration and mechanical solidarity of the Khaki Scouts actually facilitates Sam and Suzy's love affair and nurtures both the iconoclast (Sam) and leader (Skotak), who are environmentally shaped by the same social structure. All the young scouts are phenomenally capable, like mini-Army Rangers. Even though he's resigned from Troop 55, Sam continues to identify himself as a Khaki Scout with his fastidious uniform and to Suzy and Cousin Ben. Troop 55, possibly minus Redford, never stop considering Sam to be one of them. The island's solidarity also manifests with Captain Sharp using his traditional authority to intercede with the bureaucratic Social Services, who intends to take Sam into the adult world (mainland) and administer a fatalistic punishment for an action, Suzy stabbing Redford, she knows isn't his fault.

Moonrise Kingdom is also a story about reification. Suzy is alienated from her family, growing more troubled, and has no friends. Sam is a strong personality but belongs nowhere. He is an orphan whose foster parents have thrown him out and he has resigned from Troop 55 to be with Suzy. He was popular neither with his foster brothers nor his fellow scouts. Custody by Social Services carries not only the menace of Juvenile Refuge and exile from Suzy but also the threat of obliterating Sam's personality with electroshock therapy. A fugitive on the edge of extinction, Sam's only home is with Suzy. The two lonely misfits only fit in the world together as an in-group of two.

Their courtship - from intimate pen pals, to arduous hike, battle with the scout posse, and Moonrise Kingdom, to frenetic elopement - is a vigorous praxis. Sam and Suzy's feminine-masculine bonding is the first piece of alchemy. Changing Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet into Moonrise Kingdom is the next transformation of their world. They would have settled for ten days (or less) together, but the adults don't allow it. So, with the help of Troop 55, led by Skotak, the first convert to Sam and Suzy's love, they challenge the world. Benjamin Britten's Noye's Fludde tells the story of Noah's Ark and the storm that reset humanity. Fleeing the adults, their love story climaxes on the ledge atop the church steeple at the height of another powerful storm. Pushed to the limit in the storm with nowhere else to go, Sam and Suzy refuse to give in. Instead, they give their lives over to their love and thereby reset the world around them. In the reification after the storm, the Bishops' marriage has improved, Sam has his family, Captain Sharp has a son, and Sam and Suzy have tomorrow.

On the other hand, I could counter the reification interpretation by arguing, instead, the second half of Moonrise Kingdom is an Inception-esque dream by a defeated Sam. If the absurdities of the first act follow children's story physics (awake with a child's imagination), then the absurdities of the second act follow dream physics. On top of the dream-like absurdities, such as the harmless lightning strike and Scout Master Ward's bionic jumps, that are exaggerated above those in the first act, the reification of Sam and Suzy's love is an incredible clean sweep for Sam. After Sam goes to sleep that night, suddenly everything breaks his way in spectacular fashion. The unfortunate boy who has had to fight hard for everything, especially Suzy, wakes up to find the world working over-time for his happiness. His formerly antagonizing fellow scouts go out of their way to help him, he gains a strong substitute father in Captain Sharp, who risks his job to stop Social Services, and he keeps his girl, who gives up her home and fights all the way for him. Cousin Ben, who marries Sam and Suzy and tries to smuggle the twelve-year-old newlyweds onto a fishing boat, is a mythical figure. It sure seems like a poignantly desperate dream by a boy on the verge of losing the love of his life and the last of his hope and innocence. Note that the same song, Cuckoo, in the epilogue plays over Sam in the police boat after he and Suzy are caught and separated. After the painting, which is much better than anything else Sam has painted, dissolves into his sweet memory of Moonrise Kingdom, Sam will wake up to Jed's sea-plane idling by the dock, and a brooding but dutiful Captain Sharp will hand him off to Social Services. I could soften the blow by holding out the hope that Sam and Suzy resume their pen pal relationship while he's in Juvenile Refuge, preserve their in-group of two, and work out a way to be together again when they're older. But the more realistic scenario is an angry Suzy goes back to her life and grows more troubled, but she moves on from Sam. Meanwhile, Sam's age of innocence ends, his hitherto resilient confidence and optimism are shattered, and he grows up in the jungle of Juvenile Refuge to be a bitter, and perhaps ruthless, man. In Moonrise Kingdom, the world transforms to adapt to Sam and Suzy's love. That's not how it works in real life and perhaps not in Wes Anderson's world.

The dream interpretation is cynical, but I could argue it. I choose not to based on the rationale that children's stories and children's dreams differ in degree, not kind, and the children's stories motif in the first act is sufficient for the dream-like second act to be congruent, if not consistent. I accept Skotak was deeply moved by Sam and Suzy's willingness to die for each other, he rallied Troop 55 for the rescue mission, and Sam and Suzy's world did reify for their love.



Emotionally evocative movies like Moonrise Kingdom remind me to not read reviews before I form my own opinion. I need time to examine my feelings about the story and articulate my first impression. Reviews tend to adulterate that process with alien markers. Once my opinion is firm enough, I can then entertain other people's thoughts on the subject.

I like this review.

This review said something that makes me fret: "[Moonrise Kingdom] takes as its primary subject matter odd, precocious children, rather than the damaged and dissatisfied adults they will one day become."

Must a broken adulthood be Sam and Suzy's fate in Wes Anderson's world? I hope not. Sam and Suzy fought for each other with everything in them, staking their lives, for the rest of their lives. They won. When they accepted death to be together on the church steeple, their love transcended. I want them to know what they have. I want Sam and Suzy to have found their soulmate early enough in their formation that their love saves them. I want their marriage to change everything.

Sam and Suzy complement each other well. Besides being a stronger swimmer with a more sophisticated taste in music, Suzy is better at dealing with authority figures than the fastidiously uniformed, scrupulous with social conventions, respectful Sam. Suzy will break rules and when confronting adult authority, Suzy's formidable temper propels them forward. Inside their dyad, Sam steers the couple with his masculine energy and drive.

I believe Suzy's love is enough to save Sam. As independent as he is, Sam isn't a loner by choice. He most wants a family and that begins with Suzy. She's his basic building block for life. Love of a woman is possibly the world's most powerful motivation for a man to better himself. (I joined the Army, in part, because of Judy.) The flashback scene shows an aimless, slouching Sam had no accomplishment badges as a pigeon scout; it's conceivable that he earned all of his accomplishment badges not for their own sake but to carry out his courtship of Suzy. When they meet, he's confident and optimistic in spite of all the bad breaks in his young life. There's hardly any evidence he's seriously emotionally disturbed, unlike with Suzy. The resilient Sam will be okay as long as Suzy and Captain Sharp are on his side. With the backbone of paternal support and feminine dyadic love in his life, he will have the formative structure he needs to grow into a strong man. Sam's mastery learning goal orientation and growth mindset will take him the rest of the way.

I am less confident that Sam's love is enough to save Suzy. In the first act, Sam leads Suzy in their courtship. In the second act, Suzy is assertive, which speaks to her taking ownership of their love. Sam should take comfort from knowing his wife will fight for him, let alone die for him. But he should also take care not to become too comfortable in their love. When they meet, Suzy is on her way from "very troubled" girl to 'damaged and dissatisfied' woman. It's implied Suzy is seriously emotionally disturbed and shown that she hurts herself and others. For now, Suzy's "berserk" problem is kept in check by Sam switching on her femininity. In the epilogue, though, the loving light in Suzy's eyes goes out when Sam leaves. It's a warning that Suzy needs Sam's masculinity nearby to save her. Although he's enthralled and totally committed to Suzy, Sam can't afford to become deferential while trying to please her. Suzy's father is a weak man and Suzy knows her mother cheats on him; should Sam become like Walt, Suzy is, after all, her mother's daughter. Given her parents' example, her psychological issues, and her desire for restless adventure against Sam's desire for family, I wonder what pitfalls await Sam and Suzy when their marriage settles down.

Captain Sharp's involuntary bachelorhood and the Bishops' lovelorn marriage remind us that Sam and Suzy are Wes Anderson characters to whom happily ever after is not promised. Suzy will be challenged to overcome her parents' legacy and her own demons. For both their sakes, Sam must keep up his masculine leadership as her husband in order for Suzy to stay the loyal, vulnerable, feminine, and sane girl he fell in love with. Moonrise Kingdom will live on only as long as she's his girl.

Like Sam says, we can't predict the future. The patient love they share in the epilogue gives me hope that Sam will be Suzy's cure, but she has a bumpy road ahead of her. Even so, Sam and Suzy's love has already proven strong enough to conquer their world and win them tomorrow. They gave their lives to each other on the church steeple. I want to believe theirs is the rare transcendent love that is powerful enough even in Wes Anderson's world to hold on through adolescence and adulthood and bind Sam and Suzy together for life, not just tomorrow.

I second Captain Sharp's climactic order to the young lovers: "Don't let go."



As Suzy Bishop, Kara Hayward deploys an uncanny range of skillful changes with her eyes, voice, expressions, and movement throughout the movie to crisply convey the many moods of Suzy. She's almost too skilled as Suzy; Hayward put enough acting stuff into Suzy for 2, maybe even 3, characters. As Sam Shakusky, Jared Gilman isn't as versatilely expressive as Hayward and doesn't clearly show every emotion for Sam described in the script, but he delivers a more natural performance. Few people in real life are as distinctly expressive as Hayward's Suzy, while boys are normally as expressive as Gilman's Sam. Gilman and Hayward make it look so awkward, and that's what makes the innocence and earnestness of the love affair so believable and endearing. Gilman and Hayward are Sam Shakusky and Suzy Bishop. They're alive. The look, sound, and tempo of the 12-year-olds' unfolding courtship strike a nostalgically genuine childhood chord, and within the fantasy setting of Moonrise Kingdom, the young lovers stand out as the most real thing in a surreal world. We fall in love with them while they fall in love with each other. Both of them are wonderful, and their flashback scene and courtship are sublime.

Wes Anderson says he was so moved by the chemistry between Gilman and Hayward in the beach scene, which was the last scene they filmed, he asked them afterwards whether they had felt something, ie, whether his young stars had fallen in love a little for real. He wanted to believe the fantasy. They told him, no, they hadn't, they were acting. Hayward's convincing demonstration of the feminine nuances of first love without ever actually having been in love is scary. Either it's an innate feminine ability or Hayward has a special talent for mimicry.

Based on the official interviews of Gilman and Hayward on set, the actors are not at all like their characters, which testifies to Anderson's direction. At least in those interviews, they're still in costume and the same age, so the videos aren't too jarring to watch. The one other interview of Hayward I watched confirmed she has nothing in common with volatile Suzy. Hayward is a very serious-minded, ambitious, self-controlled girl. So far I've avoided watching anymore of their interviews because it's too perturbing to see Gilman and Hayward not as Sam and Suzy. I want to hold onto the illusion that Sam and Suzy are real, deeply in love, and growing up idyllically together on New Penzance Island.

For the record, Moonrise Kingdom was filmed from April to end of June, 2011. Kara Hayward's birthday is November 17, 1998 and Jared Gilman's birthday is December 28, 1998. Therefore, both actors were 12.5 years old while filming, the same age as Sam and Suzy. They were 13.5 years old when the movie was released on May 25, 2012 and are 14.5 years old now. Puberty took hold of both actors after filming and photos following the movie's release show they no longer look like Sam and Suzy. I assume Gilman doesn't sound like Sam anymore, either. I don't know that we'll see Gilman star in another feature film. Suzy is a demo reel for Hayward; her future as an actress is bright.

The rest of the child actors who play the Bishop children and Khaki Scouts give spot-on, vibrant performances, while the adult actors in the all-star cast are as polished as expected. The stylized grown-up characters match the storybook setting, and Anderson likely calibrated the adult roles to highlight the children and not overshadow them.



It's been noted that Wes Anderson films are difficult to categorize. After going back and forth on it, I classified Moonrise Kingdom as a romantic fantasy instead of a romantic comedy. No doubt, the movie delivers on the humor, and whimsical, absurd, humorous, and funny are apt descriptions in many reviews. But in my view, Moonrise Kingdom isn't primarily a romantic comedy that sets up and delivers jokes. Rather, the movie is primarily a romantic fantasy with story-telling elements of absurdity and whimsy. Its humor is mostly a by-product of the embellishments used to create the children's story atmosphere. The romantic comedy label better applies to the second act that involves more action, is more absurd, and stretches the suspension of disbelief more than the first act. On balance, though, it's a romantic fantasy.

This question-and-answer article at Grantland offers insight on Anderson's creative process for Moonrise Kingdom. Like me, Anderson begins his creative projects with an inspired feeling and gauzy vision that he then articulates by laboriously back-filling form and details. And like me, signature trends have emerged in his narrative devices and style as his artistic voice has refined. Getting his movies depends on whether Anderson's original feeling transfers from the screen into you. It's like falling through the pages of a good book. If you don't fall through the screen into the story, then you'll only see Anderson's story-telling artifice on the surface.

Given Anderson's reputation for seeing the finished product in his mind before filming, and the minutely detailed precision of his planning and direction, so that his actors say he leaves no room for improvising off the script, the changes from script to movie are interesting. The pieces cut out from the script streamlined the movie narrative, but Sam and Suzy’s dynamic in the film is significantly altered from their dynamic in the script. Walt's character is also somewhat altered between the script and movie. While he's the same cautionary tale in both versions, he acts on his anger more in the script and represses his anger more in the movie. Script-to-movie changes can be viewed two ways. One, the material that's in the script but not shown in the movie still happens in the movie's universe. It just happens off camera. Or two, whatever is in the script but not shown in the movie can't be assumed to have happened, even if it could have happened off camera. I'd like to see the cut scenes - if Anderson ever releases them - to find out how they would have changed the feel of the movie.



Afterword:

There's that insidious, childish heart's desire again, in the words of Amanda Bynes, January 2010 Cosmopolitan: "I just want a person who can see me with all my flaws and still love me. I want someone who'll be there and who I can trust - that's really important to me."

I've spent an unhealthy amount of time dwelling on this movie. Pulling away from Moonrise Kingdom is like waking up reluctantly from an especially emotional dream about, well, being in love.

It's no wonder the movie hit me so hard in my romantic idealist heart. Moonrise Kingdom is an innocent Platonic love story. The premise of fate gifting a lonely boy with a lonely intriguing girl like Suzy to love and become an in-group of two with was my fantasy with Judy and Traci.

Wes Anderson says Moonrise Kingdom is a wish-fulfillment fantasy of how he wished he had acted with a girl he liked as a boy. In other words, it is true that anxious boys like Anderson and me should ask out the girl as boldly as Sam approaches Suzy when they first meet. But the destined progression thereafter of Sam and Suzy's relationship and the positive feedback loop for Sam's Walter Mitty-esque actions are not based on a true experience. Rather, the basic truth of Moonrise Kingdom is Anderson's unfulfilled boyish fantasy of untested romantic idealism. As convincingly brought to life as they were by Gilman and Hayward under Anderson's fine direction, Sam is merely the made-up antithesis of a boyhood regret and Suzy is a dream of a fantasy based on a fairy tale.

It hurts my soul to say it, but the romantic fantasy of Sam and Suzy is essentially a pretty - no, a painfully beautiful - lie. I used to believe it wholeheartedly and acted on it. It wasn't true for me. I still badly want to believe it, which brings forth an apt description of Anderson's oeuvre: bittersweet. The childish fantasy is sweet; the adult truth is bitter. Very bitter. It hurts.

Sam and Suzy's falling in love is indeed alchemy. While plausible for proto-sexual 12-year-olds and the depiction of comfort-and-intimacy building does seem believable for their age, it's not a conventionally realistic representation of sexual chemistry for anyone older. In real life, disregarding the positivist process of courtship or seduction is a common, and usually derailing, mistake by romantic idealists. I would not be surprised if Anderson admitted that his choice of age for the protagonists - 12 years old - was made with the understanding that the love story would be implausible if they were more sexually mature. If they met as 16-year-olds, for example, Sam likely would be competing for Suzy's attention against more socially adept boys aroused by a pretty, spirited teenage Suzy, while the hormonally flush Suzy, no longer lonely, might prefer the amorous attention of different boys, such as the charismatic sociopath Redford, over an odd outcast like Sam.

However, innocent Platonic love can work between early adolescent boys and girls. Moonrise Kingdom contains the most pragmatic teaching value for boys at the start of their adolescence. The entire sequence of Sam's courtship is unlikely at any age, and that's fine - the story is a fantasy, not a blueprint. The point to take away is Sam made his initial approach to Suzy like a boss. The critical importance of a boy taking one step, the crucial first step, with a girl at the proper time in his life is the point. Suzy's equal immaturity, lack of preconceived notions, low bar of expectations, and receptive state is the point. A guileless young couple starting their life education together on intimacy, love, and yes, sex on an equal footing is the point.

In real life, what happens after the vital first step most likely won't look like Sam and Suzy's love story, but the social environmental conditions of early adolescence are set up correctly for something constructive to develop. If it doesn't work out with the first girl a boy asks out, then the developmental experience and perspective gained from taking the first step can be applied to the next girl. But there can be no next girl if there's no first girl. A boy must act with praxis at the start of his adolescence in order to switch on his man-woman dyadic program on time. If a boy misses his adolescent window to begin, the process will only become harder for him as girls mature with experience from other boys. He may be left behind and never fall in love a first time.

Sam's bold "No, I said, what kind of bird are you?" and pointing at Suzy is the true and most important point to take away from Moonrise Kingdom. The rest of what he does is a useful parable of masculine fundamentals, but Sam's initial approach to Suzy is essential.

Kara Hayward's Suzy is an instructive example for boys of the toolbox of feminine wiles that can more than compensate for a girl's looks. Keep in mind, of course, that Suzy (and Hayward while filming) is twelve, and girls' looks can change dramatically for the better or worse in their teens. Although Suzy is pretty, she's not a stand-out beauty and is somewhat unconventional looking. Which is to say, while Suzy's looks certainly don't repel boys' attention, neither will her looks alone attract boys' attention. But Hayward invests Suzy with a gamut of nuanced behavioral, eye, expression, movement, and voice inflections (along with Laura's perfume) in a feminine onslaught that bombards all of Sam's receptive masculine senses. It's disconcerting that a 12-year-old actress, however gifted at her craft, already is capable of such advanced skill pushing a boy's buttons and manipulating his romantic heart. Occasionally, we read an account of a seductress accompanied by a photograph of an ordinary looking woman. How does that happen? Pay attention to Moonrise Kingdom's Suzy for the answer. Nature gives girls many ways to become beautiful and intoxicate us.

I'm tempted to watch Moonrise Kingdom over and over to soak in the fantasy of Sam and Suzy's love, but that would be narcotic, not medicinal. As soon as the movie ends and reality returns, the nostalgia burns and the pain lingers. MGTOW is medicinal, and I need to get on with it. I can't go back and undo the life-changing mistakes I made at their age. Captain Sharp tells Sam he has his whole life ahead (not in front) of him. No, he doesn't, and Captain Sharp knows it. Captain Sharp's loneliness and empty affair with Laura Bishop are testaments that some decisions, even at Sam's age, are for life and compound downstream.

Sam would be a model MGTOW if not for marrying the love of his life. Setting aside the romantic fantasy, Moonrise Kingdom offers red-pill value in its meditations on positive masculinity, complementary gender relations, integration and solidarity (Durkheim), traditional authority (Weber), and the hard edges of the unsympathetic adult world.

Under on-line articles on Moonrise Kingdom, the majority of commenters who are unmoved by Sam and Suzy's love story have girls' names. The stereotype is women are the romantic sex. That's untrue. Men are the romantics. Or, men are the Platonic romantics (from Plato's Symposium) who associate dyadic love with transformation and transcendence towards beauty, virtue, truth, the divine, and the spiritual. Moonrise Kingdom is a Platonic love story. Perhaps women are moved by a different kind of romance of a more rational, visceral, or sensual quality. I first noticed the disconnect between stereotype and reality with Judy, who was unmoved by the sentiment of Les Miserables. She was annoyed by it the same way female commenters are annoyed by Moonrise Kingdom's love story. When Judy cited the lyric "To love another person is to see the face of God" as a line that irked her, it should have been an early warning that she and I were not on the same page in our relationship. While what she said made me uneasy, Judy is also a classical musician, so I rationalized she was only unimpressed by the sophistication level of Broadway music. Maybe that was true, too, but more relevant to us was her dislike of Platonic love at the same time I was aspiring for us to be a Platonic love story. How many women believe in Platonic love? The answer to that question would influence my decision on MGTOW. If women don't believe in Platonic love, then I have no reason to hold onto my romantic idealist, soulmate-oriented, feminine-masculine dyadic hope. I wonder how many women whose significant others believe they are sharing Platonic love are actually motivated in the relationship by more prosaic reasons. A woman's reaction to Moonrise Kingdom could serve as an indicator of her compatibility with romantic idealist men.



Post-script: My reaction to Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Eric

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