It's 1965, the rainy end of summer on the rocky coast of a fictional New England isle. Twelve-year-old Sam (Jared Gilman), a scrawny outcast, disappears from the Khaki Scout camp, leaving behind a "resignation" letter for scoutmaster Randy Ward (Edward Norton). Suzy (Kara Hayward)—a just-pubescent bad seed—also disappears from her own home, her distracted lawyer parents (Frances McDormand and Bill Murray) initially none the wiser. Soon enough, Suzy's mom finds a box of "intimate" correspondence between the two kids—who met once the previous summer—suggesting they have run away together. Aided by what remains of Ward's troop ("It's a chance to do some first-class scouting!"), the grown-ups, including Bruce Willis' policeman, mobilize to find the fugitive young lovers. Moonrise takes the form of old-fashioned preteen literature, but, as in everything made by Wes Anderson, does so knowingly. The escape Sam engineers for the pair is dangerous and crazy, but it's also a way for the boy—an orphan on the verge of being dumped by his foster family—to exercise control, and to show off to a receptive audience. Suzy doesn't have it so bad at home, but Sam's flattering gaze gives her something she isn't getting, and now won't easily be able to live without. This utopian romance is thrown into relief by the adults' quiet despair. Lonely even—or particularly—when not alone, the grown-ups have long ago given up on the possibility of transformative love. Their melancholy situates Anderson's fantasy in reality.
Hayward and Gilman follow the map of love.
Opens Fri., June 8 at Guild 45th, Lincoln Square, and Pacific Place. Rated PG-13. 97 minutes.