Make no mistake, Moonrise Kingdom is a small film but feels enormous, not due to its big themes (the transcendent power of love), but in how it so completely crystallizes that which Wes Anderson has been on about this last decade and a half or so.
I don't think you need to be an Andersonian to enjoy Moonlight, which is a great film by pretty much any definition. But if Anderson is your thing, I cannot imagine a more joyous night in the cinema. As an Andersonian from the start, I could watch it in a Loop.
But it isn't all joy, of course. I am not the first to remark on Anderson's ability to infuse into all the whimsy an undercurrent of despair in his films, and it is there, in giant, difficult gulps in Moonlight. In fact the cast seems to be have been assembled specifically for the ability to convey quiet desperation. Hell, quiet desperation has given Bill Murray a second career. Is there a stranger, sadder scene in the recent American cinema than when Murray, shirtless and paunchy and filled with so much unresolvable grief, grabs and ax and tells his sons "I have to find a tree to cut down?"
One may think Bruce Willis is the outlier in the cast, but of course his ability to carry the weight of the world has always been one of his more underrated talents. In this, Unbreakable, 16 Blocks, 12 Monkeys, Sixth Sense et alia, he is our Saddest Action Hero. I hope he gets his first Oscar Nomination for Moonlight.
Ah, but the joy. The joy. It is also there in giant, difficult gulps. The dance sequence to Francois Hardy on the beach is the most unbridled piece of joy on film I can recall since Denis Lavant tripped the light fantastic to David Bowie in Carax's Bad Blood. Bravo, Mr. Anderson, for reminding us that without despair there can be no joy, and without joy, there is only despair.