Tuesday, September 9, 2014


Moonstruck; romantic comedy, USA, 1987; D: Norman Jewison, S: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, Julie Bovasso, John Mahoney

New York. The 37-year old widow Loretta, whose husband died when he was hit by a bus, half-heartedly accepts a marriage proposal from the irresponsible 42-year old Johnny. When he heads off to Sicily, to see his dying mother, Loretta decides to plan the wedding, but has an affair with Johnny's younger brother, Ronny. The full moon over the city affects even others, it seems, because her father Cosmo has a fling with a lady and Loretta's mother Rose has a nice chat with an ageing bachelor, professor Perry. When Johnny returns to New York, Loretta wants to admit she fell for Ronny. However, before she can do that, Johnny announces he is cancelling the wedding because his mother recovered.

"Moonstruck" is a film without any excess and without a truly bad scene, but, unfortunately, it is in equal measure lukewarm and meek, without any truly great scenes, either. The main concept about a woman falling in love with someone else before her wedding is nothing new, and the treatment of that concept isn't new nor is there a twist to it, which causes the potential for overwhelming the viewer to collapse: Cher and Nicolas Cage do their best, but their roles are underwritten and thus they cannot do much with them, but Loretta is at least a likable character, while Ronny is one heck of an unromantic blockhead. One example of the contrived writing is this one: Loretta meets Ronny in the bakery and asks why he is so full of anger against his brother Johnny, for years. Ronny then, in all seriousness, gives no reason at all, but just says that he lost his hand in the bread slicer, which is the cause of his anger - even though Ronny had nothing to do with that accident! A better motivation for his behavior would have been welcomed. Likewise, it is not clear why Loretta would have an affair with Ronny only hours after meeting him for the first time, since there is no chemistry between them. Can you seriously expect a romantic vibe from a guy who says this cringe worthy sentence: "The storybooks are bullshit! Now I want you to come upstairs with me and get in my bed!"

Maybe this could have worked if it was an erotic film, about a passionate attraction between two opposites, but they treat this at something gentle and amorous. Ironically, the short subplot where Loretta's mother Rose has a chat and a "stolen date" with an ageing professor - who gives her a beautiful speech about how his lectures became routine, but to new students, they still seems new and exciting - has far more spark than the main plot. The only truly great character here is Loretta's dad Cosmo, played by excellent Vincent Gardenia, because each and every one of his comical lines is example of inspired writing ("I don't sleep anymore. it feels too much like death"; "No, he wasn't killed by a bus. It was bad luck! Your mother and I have been married for 50 years and nobody died!"; "I don't like that Johnny. When he smiles I can't see his teeth. What is he hiding?"), something that cannot be said for the rest of the characters or the thin storyline. Here and there a more inspired line or moment shows up, which raises the charm for a notch, yet there is too much empty walk, whereas it has one of worst cop-out endings since Reiner's "All of Me". "Moonstruck" seems like a bowl of tepid soup with only traces of spice here and there.


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