the wonders (natural and otherwise) of the island of new penzance

The big news is that I was tagged in the Next Big Thing (Blog Hop) by Maggie over at Maggie Madly Writing. I'm still working on my answers to the questions (I plan to post them mid-week), so meanwhile here's another thought about Moonrise Kingdom. Again, mild spoilers.

I've been thinking about the question of exactly what Sam and Suzy are running away from. At the beginning of the movie, the narrator tells us about the natural wonders of the island of New Penzance. There's old growth pine and maple, shallow tidal creeks, and no paved roads, but what the island also has is a lot of hierarchies.

  • The Khaki Scouts are all hierarchies, both between the scouts and the scout masters and also within each of those groups. The various scouts we see wear different colored uniforms and wear different patches and badges, obvious establishing their relative ranks.
  • Suzy's family, in addition to everything else, also has hierarchies. Despite the fact that they have a huge dining room table, and there are only six people in the whole family, only the "adults" (Suzy and her parents) eat in the dining room, and the three young boys eat at a smaller table in another room. This is never commented on, but it's a very clear image.
  • And the animals have ranks, as we discover when Suzy yells at the wrong person in the opera being performed in the local church. Before that she was a raven, the top bird, but then she's demoted to being just a blue jay.
  • And even Social Services wears a uniform, looking as if her department might be a subsidiary of the Salvation Army.

But in the idyllic surroundings of Mile 3.25 Tidal Inlet, Sam and Suzy can just be themselves.

This is a wonderful example of a theme running through a story without ever being stated explicitly. It gives the audience credit for thinking, and I like that.

But the really interesting thing is how people react when the two run away and break out of the hierarchies. Everybody's first reaction is to repair the breach, to restore the natural order, to put things back where they "belong."

But then, to different degrees, some faster than others, starting with the young Khaki Scouts, they mostly begin to realize (and act on) the fact that this was wrong, that trying to bring things back to "normal" for Suzy and Sam was not the right thing to do.

This is often how things happen in real life. People resist change at first, but then they can start to wonder why it seems so wrong.

Oh, and I have to mention how accurately the movie captures some things about twelve-year-old boys, for example their excitement about the possibility of violence ("I'm not going to be the one who forgot to bring a weapon."), their herd instinct ("Why should I like you? Nobody else does."), their ability to believe almost any "fact" if it arrives with the appropriate evidence ("I heard..."), and their casual dismissal ("She's too scruffy for me.") of girls who they wouldn't have stood a chance with anyway.

Later: I noted an article on Slate called, "Oof, the Golden Globe Best Actress Nominations Are a Snooze," which contained this comment: "And I love Meryl Streep, but it's hard to see why her turn in a mediocre light marriage comedy is more worthy than Kara Hayward's remarkable performance as a troubled young teenager in Wes Anderson's emotionally precise and hugely original Moonrise Kingdom."

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