Written by John Patrick Shanley
Directed by Norman Jewison
At the USA Cheri
MOONSTRUCK is possibly Cher at her best. Possibly because Cher is playing herself--a confused, slightly idiotic but strikingly attractive woman who is not exactly sure what she wants to do with her life.
Cher plays a New York Italian woman who decides to get married for the second time. With her first hubby. she tells us, it was a case of true love but then he was run over by a bus. The happy marriage having ended seven years earlier, Cher's character, Loretta, decides she needs the security of a new marriage. This, apparently, is how the modern woman acts.
Johnny (Danny Aiello) has just proposed to her. Though she does not love him, she accepts. He is, well, a nice man. but he suffers from a strong Oedipal conflict. His mamma may live in Palermo, but her apron strings reach across the ocean to her favorite bambino.
NOW she is dying, and she summons her son to Sicilia for the occasion. As he leaves Loretta, he asks her to visit his brother and settle the bad blood between them.
Brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage) falls in love with Loretta--and she with him. They consummate their love, and Loretta is left with feelings of guilt and indecision. The plot turn is easy to understand because the film goes out of its way to show Cage's brawn. And his brainlessness, even if he does love the opera.
Cher decides to stick with marrying Johnny, and to resolve her guilt she goes to confessional. "Pray for me, father, for I have sinned," she tells the priest, adding as casually as she might recite a shopping list that she has twice taken the Lord's name in vain, slept with the brother of her fiance, and once knocked someone over by accident. The priest simply tells her to say two rosaries.
IT may be hard to imagine Cher as an Italian, but she manages to pull it off. She also proves capable of entering into the kind of family politics which large families require. And Loretta's family is stereotypically Italian, complete with a grandfather who gives the food his daughter-in-law cooks to his pack of dogs.
Olympia Dukakis plays the mother (yes, she is related to the governor) as a said woman who asks the men she meets one important question, "Why do men chase women?" The answer, she concludes, is fear of death. Dukakis is made up to look much older than she is, and she acts as if she is miserable. Maybe she is, but this does not really fit in with the film's levity.
Cher's father is Vincent Gardenia. Gardenia is one of the movie's highlights. Charming and reticent, he is a plumber with a gift for words. His own senile father, however is a bit too much of a stereotype.
WHATEVER the plot's faults may be, the film is humorous--not on a cerebral level, but it strikes a primitive chord. And though the film attempts to create meaningful metaphors (the moon and the opera), even these turn out to be comical. But it is hard to believe that 38-year-old Italian-speaking Loretta has never been to the opera before she meets Ronny and equally hard to believe that she is so touched by it (the tears positively roll down her face). The question remains--is this intended to be funny?
Moonstruck's tale of tangled love triangles (Cher's is not the only one) can be highly entertaining, despite a cast of mediocre actors. But it is difficult to tell whether much of the parody that makes the film so enjoyable is intended or not. It is enjoyable nonetheless.