Release Date: December 16th, 1987 MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Norman Jewison Actors: Cher, Nicolas Cage, Olympia Dukakis, Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia, Julie Bovasso, Anita Gillette
ove can be very confusing. And it has never appeared more so than in Norman Jewison’s contemporary classic “Moonstruck.” Starring a spectacular cast, including Cher in an Oscar-winning role, Nicolas Cage, Danny Aiello, Vincent Gardenia (who received an Oscar nomination), and Olympia Dukakis (who also won an Academy Award for her part), with a hilarious and moving script by John Patrick Shanley, the film is a wildly entertaining rumination on unexpected romance, true love, and good fortune.
Loretta Castorini (Cher) was married once before, but a bus hit her husband. And she blames the deadly incident on bad luck and a failure to follow tradition. When her current boyfriend Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) proposes to her, she feels that it is her final chance at happiness, even though she doesn’t really love him. When Johnny makes a trip to Sicily (from New York) to visit his dying mother, he asks Loretta to invite his estranged brother to their upcoming wedding, scheduled for one month away. So she goes to visit brash young Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), who hasn’t seen his brother in five years, as he blames Johnny for an accident that cost him his hand and his fiancée. Despite Ronnie’s tormented, crazy, and overzealous attitude, Loretta falls madly in love with him – and must decide what exactly to do about it.
The film starts slow but is careful to concentrate on exceptional character development. By the time hearts are broken and love-struck characters are exasperatingly confused, the audience can completely understand and care about this fervent family and their disorienting relationships. “Moonstruck” essentially observes the various reasons people become unfaithful, and how true love is certain to win out – especially in a lighthearted romantic comedy setting. When the hilarious dinner table conclusion finally unfolds, everyone is thoroughly distraught, nervous, and bamboozled by the abundance of infidelities and trysts – but happiness is a counterpart of amorous destiny, and those who are meant to be together clearly won’t be separated for long.
The cast is stellar and entirely deserving of the accolades they received (including Golden Globe and BAFTA wins, and numerous placements on the American Film Institute’s various Top 100 lists). Cher conveys believable sentimental distractedness, yet always keeps her wits about her, disclosing that the immoral decisions she routinely makes are spontaneous episodes steering her in the course of momentary satisfaction. And she even has the conscience to confess about them in church. Cage gives a matching turn as the rambunctious, untamed, and absolutely hysterical Casanova-with-a-wooden-hand. Ronny also knows the power of whimsical love pursued with assertiveness. Dukakis is the intelligent, realistic, levelheaded mother; Gardenia is the father fearful of death; and Aiello is the fragile, mother’s boy, who regularly creates and then comically solves predicaments.
What exactly is love – and does it matter? Is it a double slap in the face or kicking around an empty soda can in the middle of a rainy street? “Moonstruck” paints it out to be loud, bright, operatic, and perplexing, but it sure is fun. Capricious and never too serious, this uproarious exercise in accidental relationships, unveiled adultery, and coincidental prosperity is a grand romantic comedy that shouldn’t be missed.
– Mike Massie