Moonstruck – 1987
Director – Norman Jewison
Starring – Cher, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, and Olympia Dukakis
Through the years there have been many messages, poems, and letters delivered through the medium of the motion pictures. Some are about strong women, some are about the enduring strength of an ideal, and some messages are just downright personal (love for an idea, a theme, or a people or demographic), but there is no more popular subject than community. Groups of people bound by something larger than each of the individuals, something definable and relatable. Or in the case of Moonstruck, a community of people that works and lives in New York City.
The film, features a rather typical sort of love story. A widowed woman, Loretta (Cher), is currently in a relationship that is going nowhere. Her boyfriend isn’t ready to commit to more, but she comes to realize that maybe she is just settling for less to avoid loneliness. She lives with her parents, and grandparents and spends all day entrenched in the lives of her loud, boisterous, Italian family. All day long she listens to her mother, Rose, worry about whether or not her husband is cheating, her father just seems to want to be left alone, and she is caught in the middle.
When her boyfriend, Johnny (Danny Aiello) proposes to her, she travels to the bakery where his long estranged brother works to invite him to the wedding. Ronny (Nic Cage), is a fiery, passion filled man who is nursing a resentment over the girl that his brother stole long ago. Naturally, this spirited and outspoken man intrigues Loretta, and she falls in love with him instantly. Tortured by her guilt over the new-found love, and her betrayal of the man who proposed to her, she is forced to choose between the lie that she loves or the love that’s a lie.
The other, of the two, over-arching themes of this film seems to be lies, and though lies and community seem like disparate things, they end up being very closely intertwined. Each character has a secret, or at the very least a social quirk that they are trying to repress, but due to close quarters of New York City there is always someone paying attention to what they are doing. This sort of involuntary interaction with neighbors, family, and co-workers means that privacy is really an illusion. These people then, for lack of anyone better equipped to deal with the situation, become the support system to either validate or discredit what they are doing.
Loretta is seen out on the town with Ronny by her father, who actually IS stepping out with another woman behind Rose’s back. After watching the constant fighting and break-ups of a fellow lonely soul in the neighborhood restaurant, Rose is spotted by her father-in-law walking home with him after the two share a friendly, yet intimate dinner. And everyone who surrounds Ronny at the bakery has been silently watching him grieve his failed relationship for years. These people are all witnesses to lives, and hidden pains of one another. They catch each other at their very worst, but at the same time represent to each other, a support system that is deeply important and personal.
Though she doesn’t approve of her father stepping out without her mother, Loretta is bound by the guilt brought on by her own infidelity. They are locked in opposition with one another, yet they still end up helping each other work out a solution by the end of the film. Perry (the unlucky-in-love, restaurant patron) and Rose can relate to each other’s feelings of loneliness, rejection, and the humiliation that is a natural part of relationships. And though their support is misconstrued by someone else, they are simply providing support for one another. Finally, Ronny’s support system is his job, and he uses it as a way to give his life meaning until something else, something more rewarding (read: Loretta), comes along to snap him out of it.
Even though the film is a love story, we understand as an omnipotent, the all-seeing audience, that the support structure would be the same if it were a drama, or a slapstick comedy, or even a mystery. The love story is the background, the paint on the house that is the story of the community. More than anything this film emphasizes the ideal that communities are not only important, and necessary, but all around us. They may get us into trouble sometimes, but more often than not, it is these important connections in our lives that inevitably get us out of trouble as well.
I realize that Moonstruck is just a fun little romantic comedy, but it does strive to describe and illustrate the connection that exists in its story. Cher, Nicholas Cage, and Director, Norman Jewison, are well aware of this, and though it may not reach this ideal consistently throughout the film, the fact that it tries raises Moonstruck up far above the level of most. Once again, I’m left wondering why something so glorious and wonderful as “Paper Moon” never made this list, as it features similar themes, and in my humble opinion is a far superior film.
“The one thing we can all agree upon when it comes to the art of cinema, is that all movies should have Cher in them.” – Ashley