Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck marked the first feature film I ever saw that wasn’t animated as a first grade ticket holder tagging along with my far more enthusiastic mother and grandmother – three generations of Italian-Americans offscreen lining up to watch a romantic saga about three generations of Italian-Americans onscreen.
While obviously it would take years to appreciate the extraordinary layers of screenwriter John Patrick Shanley’s character-driven multi-generational romantic comedy that's as intimate as a stage-play as it is grandly operatic, the power exuded by Nicolas Cage in an unhinged, wildly charismatic breakthrough performance during my first encounter of the live-action kind is something I’ll never forget.
And because it was my love of acting and in particular my girlish crush on and admiration for character actors that ultimately inspired me to study cinema on a more serious level merely five years later, in retrospect there’s no underestimating the impact that my dumbstruck by Moonstruck reaction had on my life as a budding film buff.
A martyr for heartbreak, although Cage's maimed, bread maker Ronny Cammareri eventually tells his brother's fiancé Loretta (Cher) that the storybooks are bullshit in one of Moonstruck's most famous, tragicomic seductive speeches, the first time we see Ronny working with fire – screaming about the loss of his hand and his bride – there's something instantly mythic about him as though he was ripped from the pages of a Grimm fairytale.
Therefore, when faced with the hyper-masculine Ronny who is the complete opposite of his stereotypical Sicilian mama's boy older brother Johnny (Danny Aiello) who just got engaged to our heroine Loretta, it's neither an accident nor surprising indeed that she dubs her fiancé’s estranged brother Ronny, “a wolf.”
Perhaps using the line as a stage direction, Cage attacks his role in a primal, instinctive way like Marlon Brando's Stanley Kowalski as filtered through the opera Ronny loves – La bohème – just before the “animal” flips over a kitchen table, runs his hand through his hair in a quintessentially delicious over-the-top Cage move and takes the Loretta “to the bed.”
Putting Loretta on the romantic defensive in a battle between her head and her heart by forcing the widow to question whether or not she wants a practical future with Johnny or a passionate one with him, Ronny’s “amore” proves to be a contagious aphrodisiac as Loretta’s extended family soon finds themselves questioning their own love lives as well.
Although most of the well-deserved acclaim and accolades were bestowed on the onscreen mother/daughter duo of Cher and Olympia Dukakis who helped keep the movie grounded in (albeit heightened) reality whenever Cage’s Ronny attempted to orbit the moon, overall it’s his deliriously arresting turn that we recall the most.
Moreover, Cage’s bravura performance singing talented playwright turned screenwriter Shanley’s dialogue as though it were Puccini is bittersweet in comparison to the dumbed-down cardboard caricature style Jerry Bruckheimer roles he’s embraced since the late ‘90s.
Yet moving past thoughts of Cage's career to cinematic love stories in general, Moonstruck additionally startles and soothes viewers jaded by today’s often interchangeable, crass, and lifelessly predictable romantic comedies as one of Hollywood’s last great genre productions.
Moonstruck may be turning twenty-four years old but thanks to the sheer quality of the film as well as MGM’s luscious Blu-ray transfer, it remains as fresh, life-affirming, uplifting, comical, and dizzyingly romantic as it was back when Cage nearly carried Cher off the screen in 1987.
Despite the fact that I could only respond emotionally rather than intellectually during my first viewing as a baffled six-year-old – like falling in love with film or the brother of Loretta’s fiancé – Norman Jewison’s terrific ensemble comedy filled with superstition, coincidence, theatricality and attraction is one that's best experienced from the heart rather than the head in the end.
Text ©2011, Film Intuition, LLC; All Rights Reserved. http://www.filmintuition.com Unauthorized Reproduction or Publication Elsewhere is Strictly Prohibited and in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.
FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.
Labels: Blu-ray Review