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Friday Film Review: Moonstruck

Moonstruck (1987)
Genre: Romantic Comedy, Family Drama
Grade: A

God, what can I say about this movie except I love it. I loved it the first time I saw it and I’ve loved it every other time I’ve ever seen it. That’s over twenty years of love and I could still watch it for twenty more.

Loretta Castorini (Cher), a bookkeeper in Brooklyn, is set to marry Mr. Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). As she tells her mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis), she likes him but doesn’t love him. She loved once, married, then was quickly widowed and has now decided to settle for this man instead of holding out for love again. Before he leaves for Sicily to be at the bedside of his so-called dying mother, Johnny asks her to invite his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) to the wedding.

When Loretta tracks Ronny down, she finds a tormented man – though mainly in his own mind. Dismayed by Ronny’s reasoning for the bad blood between the two brothers, she forces him to sit down for a meal (they’re Italian after all) to explain to him why he’s nuts. One thing leads to another which leads to Ronny’s bed.

Faced with ‘morning after’ guilt, Loretta argues with Ronny since he feels none. He agrees to stay out of her life if she’ll do one thing for him: go to the opera with him that evening. If he can have the two things he loves most in the world, Loretta and opera, for one night he’ll die a happy man. She agrees which only leads to another session in bed and another ‘morning after’ which is complicated by Johnny’s return after a ‘miracle’ happens and his mother recovers. So, after everyone ends up in the kitchen of the Castorini house, who will Loretta pick?

This film was nominated for 6 Oscars and won 3 of them. Cher and Olympia Dukakis were among the winners and after watching the movie, I can see why. But they’re not the only ones in the cast who don’t even appear to be acting. The supporting cast are fabulous including my favorite, Feodor Chaliapin Jr as the grandfather who says little but who is a scene stealer.

The director (Norman Jewison) and writer (John Patrick Shanley) both say that the dialogue and characters are the most important things in the film and I agree. There are no amazing special effects, no exploding anything, no car chases, no sex (though there’s a hot lead-in to what we know will be amazing sex), no pratfalls and no toilet jokes. I wish more of the current crop of Hollywood directors would pick up on the fact that you don’t need all these meaningless extras if you have a good script and pick your cast well.

I had not realized that the late Julie Bovasso, who played Aunt Rita, was so instrumental in helping the actors achieve the state of “Brooklyn Italian-Americanism” that they did but cheers to her for the results on the screen.

And bravo to everyone involved in the production for getting me to “feel” what’s going on onscreen. Let me elucidate with a particular scene. Loretta and Ronny first meet in a hot bakery basement and yeah, I can see the oven fires and Ronny sweating and intellectually I think “it must be hot down there.” But, when Ronny opens the door to the outside so that he and Loretta can go upstairs and I see the white sky though the open doorway, I can “feel” the cold air they’re going into.

The music used in the film sets the mood, carries us through and makes the movie something special in yet another way. The one place where it faltered slightly for me was the scene where Loretta is changing into her opera dress and some kind of jazzy music was included. It always sticks out like a sore thumb to me.

Despite presenting life truisms, this isn’t ever real life in Brooklyn. It’s opera in Brooklyn. Just like an opera, the main characters each play a particular role and some take their role almost to the edge of overplaying it. Where else but this surreal world could Ronny deliver these lines with a straight face?

“Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!”

And where else would Loretta hear these lines and go upstairs with him and get in his bed?

Another scene which delights me is when Loretta’s Uncle Raymond and Aunt Rita romance each other in bed under “Cosmo’s Moon” thus proving that romance doesn’t end when you’re fifty. Or even sixty.

There is a subplot that some might dislike and that is the one about Cosmo and his mistress. Cosmo is made to look somewhat foolish for going out with, as Loretta puts it, “some piece of cheap goods.” In the end, Rose puts an end to the relationship but the whole issue does leave a sour taste.

Who does Loretta end up with? The contrast between the two proposal scenes says it all. Johnny has to be told by Loretta how he should propose to her – and he chooses to do so at a restaurant! – while Ronny ceremoniously presents the ring, which is actually Johnny’s borrowed pinkie ring, to her family as they’re sitting in the kitchen of the Castorini home before asking her, in front of all of them, to marry him. And if this doesn’t tell you who she ends up with, then watch the movie.

~Jayne

Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.

20 Comments

  1. Sandy James
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 04:22:50

    What a fantastically romantic and wonderful movie!! Up until Moonstruck, I never saw Nicholas Cage’s appeal. His performance in that movie made me melt. Not only that, but the family dynamics were so endearing. All around good show!! Definitely deserves the “A.”

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  2. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 05:12:45

    @Sandy James: I liked him in “Racing with the Moon” and loved him in “Raising Arizona.” But then “Arizona” is such an ensemble piece.

    Looking at this list, it seems I like him with weird hairstyles!

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  3. Cara McKenna
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 05:44:14

    I was deprived of this movie until last year (in my defense, I was too young to see it when it came out) and man was I missing out! It’s hands-down the best romantic comedy I’ve ever seen. I think it’s a tribute to Nicholas Cage’s acting that you totally forgive his abysmal Brooklyn accent in light of every other aspect of his performance.

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  4. Maria Zannini
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 06:11:23

    Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Did I say that too loud? LOL.

    One of my favorite lines in the movie came when Ronny tells Loretta he loves her.

    She slaps him (twice) and says: “Snap out of it!”

    That line still gets heard at my house. :)

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  5. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 06:21:36

    @Cara McKenna: Maybe it’s just because I’ve watched this movie for 20+ years but it doesn’t feel or look dated to me – unlike other even more recent movies. I’m glad you finally got to see it.

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  6. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 06:23:26

    Oh, Maria, that line is a classic! Hers is not the response we’re used to reading in romance novels. ;)

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  7. Bonnie
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 06:39:37

    Definitely one of the best. Soundtrack’s good, too.

    ReplyReply

  8. Danielle
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 07:04:46

    This movie will always hold a special place in my heart — this was one of the last movies that we went to see together before he passed away.

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  9. Anon76
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 11:21:28

    I’m a huge Cher fan. I love all the movies I’ve seen her in.

    As for Nicholas Cage, he won me over in Guarding Tess (I think that’s the correct title of the movie.)

    For pure pleasure I watch him in ConAir. My heavens that movie is corny with loads of bad lines, but…NC with longer hair and that tight white tank-shirt? Drool!

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    Mar 26, 2010 @ 11:25:08

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  11. Jennifer North
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 11:56:15

    Thanks for the reminder of how perfect this movie is! I was already a huge Nic Cage fan when I first saw this at the theater (I fell in love with him when I went to Valley Girl on the night of my junior prom–anyone who’s partial to him should TOTALLY see VG if they haven’t because he is soooo frickin awesome as bad boy Randy) and I remember being psyched to see him in another romance but doubtful about his pairing with Cher. Neither of them disappointed. And the screenplay is amazing–funny, quirky, and touching without being maudlin. The “bread is life” speech has become a permanent part of my family’s kitchen dialect.

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  12. Angela/Lazaraspate
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 13:04:01

    I love this film. If they made a movie about my family it would look like an unholy mixture of Moonstruck and The Royal Tenenbaums. That last scene in the kitchen might be one of the most amazing scenes in movie history, IMHO. You’ve inspired me to finally write the blog post I’ve been meaning to do on Italians in romance novels.

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  13. Jessann Burton
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 13:13:14

    My roommate and I wander around the apartment quoting Moonstruck to each other. It truly is the movie for all situations and I’m trying to pick the perfect section to quote, but I just can’t to do it. They’re all so good! Oh well, I’ll take Loretta’s advice.

    “Snap out of it!”

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  14. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 14:00:37

    @Angela/Lazaraspate:

    You've inspired me to finally write the blog post I've been meaning to do on Italians in romance novels.

    I can’t wait to read it.

    The kitchen scene is fantastic. In fact, all the kitchen scenes are wonderful but especially the last one.

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  15. Jayne
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 14:04:51

    @Jessann Burton: Off the top of my head and paraphrasing like mad:

    Rose: They drive you crazy just ’cause they know they can.

    ReplyReply

  16. Angie
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 17:11:32

    I love this film so much. In my top ten all-time for sure. And when I first met my future husband’s family it quickly became clear we were kindred spirits when his dad suddenly started quoting the bakery scene at the dinner table. Awesome.

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  17. Verona St. James
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 17:48:31

    I love the “A bride without a head!” “A wolf without a foot!” exchange. Classic.

    I first saw this movie when I was supposed to be doing lab study hours for my Italian class. They didn’t check what we were doing so I got credit for two hours of lab time for watching this. It was worth it. :)

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  18. Annm
    Mar 26, 2010 @ 21:29:32

    Squeeeeeeeee! Concur, concur, concur that this is absolutely an “A” film. Love it. Thanks for writing about it.

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  19. ronjaraeuber
    Mar 27, 2010 @ 05:03:37

    I LOVE this movie! It’s my favorite of all time.

    ReplyReply

  20. Patricia
    Mar 27, 2010 @ 19:08:10

    Love this film. Fave line (may not be exact), Rose to Loretta, “you love him, Loretta?” Loretta, “yes, I do”. Rose: “Oh, that’s too bad…”

    This could be ANYBODY’s family, & such a reflection on love in all its terrible, & terrific, aspects.

    ReplyReply

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