Brief Review: Moonstruck (1987)

moonstruck_posterMoonstruck is a 1987 Norman Jewison film that stars Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Vincent Gardenia, and Danny Aiello. It tells the story of Loretta Castorini (Cher), an engaged Italian-American woman who falls in love with the brother of her fiance, Ronny (Nicolas Cage). There is also some focus on Loretta’s parents (Dukakis and Gardenia) and their views and experiences with love and marriage.

Moonstruck is a sweet little film that mostly succeeds in not succumbing to the pitfalls of hammered sentimentality. It also features some strong acting (including Oscar-winning turns for Cher and Dukakis) which fit well for the relatable characters presented by Jewison. Even Nicolas Cage, despite a pretty questionable accent, manages to give a solid performance. Each character has flaws, yet that does not prevent them from being likeable.

Jewison’s direction adds to the air of romanticism. The contrast of lights against indigo backdrops thoroughly emphasizes the theme of “the moon brings the woman to the man.” It is not a film that demands obvious or flashy direction, but Jewison adds his own flair to it that elevates Moonstruck above the average romantic dramedy film.

On the imdb board for the film one person praised Moonstruck’s final ten minutes as one of the greatest in film. In my opinion, however, the ending was a mixed bag. On one hand I applaud the creative way in which everything was wrapped up. It was a quiet scene at a dinner table. The drama that was expected remained subdued without becoming boring.

The way in which Johnny’s mother’s recovery meant he could not marry Loretta was interesting.

On the other hand, it still seemed to be a bit cliched. For all that I could not see coming, I had a feeling that Johnny would come up with a reason why he could no longer marry Loretta (especially since the run-time was rapidly approaching its end by the time he finally reunited with Loretta). This also made everything seem a bit rushed and packed into the final few minutes.

It also came across as too neat; it did steer clear of setting off obnoxious fireworks but in doing so it sacrificed some of its authenticity. Sure, an entirely jovial ending is not unwelcome, but after following a group of characters that had spent the film struggling to discover where their heart belonged the pure ending with no anger or resentment felt a little too perfect. So the ending did have some genuinely surprising elements, but still had some cliched and unrealistic ones as well. It is a balance and Moonstruck just comes up short in nailing the landing.

Still, I must admit that I did really enjoy Moonstruck. For anybody looking for a flick that succeeds in mixing sweet and smart this one is for you. I do not know if I would give it the Best Picture nomination that it received, but it is still very enjoyable and a solid 4/5.

Moonstruck imdb page

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