|'Moonstruck': Like a Big Pizza Pie|
|By Michael S. Goldberger, iBerkshires Film Critic|
04:50PM / Thursday, July 16, 2020
I wish that I were reviewing one of the half-dozen movies certain to be made when this pox upon our house is no more. But until that glorious return to normality has us resuming all the simple joys of life we take for granted, like going to the movies, I'll be retro-reviewing and thereby sharing with you the films that I've come to treasure over the years, most of which can probably be retrieved from one of the movie streaming services. It is my fondest hope that I've barely put a dent into this trove when they let the likes of me back into the Bijou.
Rose: "Do you love him, Loretta?"
Loretta: "Aw, ma, I love him awful."
Rose: "Oh, G-d, that's too bad."
We don't know much about love, not much at all. And the longer our species occupies this planet, the more confounded we are by the emotion. It intrigues us, haunts us, makes us cry, makes us laugh, makes us sick, makes some of us kill ourselves and, in the most tragic scenario, well, that's just too tragic.
Thus it follows, there is no subject that occupies our thoughts or our art more than love, although money, also a chief motivator, slips in there at a close second, evidenced by that oft-used phrase denoting failure to stimulate an effect: Neither love nor money. But even in that example, there is a connection. Per my rich sister Anne, "Money can't buy you love, but it sure can take you to a lot of places to find it." I wonder.
True or not, it's a topic of study preferable to the albeit necessary wracking of brain we've devoted to contemplating the nature of evil, prompted by the political ignominy currently threatening our life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. And hey, all that lying, cheating, embezzlement, and more lying, and more cheating, including every traitorous deceit and grift short of backing up a truck to Fort Knox (though, maybe he has), probably has a deleterious effect on our love life, too. That alone is reason enough for impeachment, but this time followed by conviction.
All of which makes Norman Jewison's superbly written, directed and acted "Moonstruck" the perfect temporary antidote to the disingenuous, authoritarian-employed patriotism and Anti-Love being spewed from on high down in Foggy Bottom. Written by John Patrick Shanley, its love-smitten delve into all the wonderful nooks and crannies of humans involved in the perennial search for l'amour reminds that, though often flummoxed in our path, there is an innate goodness to be tapped if so we choose.
In short, while the quirkily likeable explorers and searchers for emotional magic in the alternately hilarious and bittersweet "Moonstruck" cannot conjure a definition of love that would satisfy Noah Webster, they know it when they have found it.
Ever been there? Something else, huh? Makes you want to do a song and dance duo with Gene Kelly, shout it from the rooftops and tell strangers on a bus, even if you normally never ride the bus, "Hey, I'm in love." To your best friend, the shared confidence that "This is the one" brings a jaw-dropping reverence. What power. As my make-believe friend Durante might be wont to say, "Stop the presses."
Of course, following the proper rules of fiction, when first we meet Cher's brilliantly portrayed Loretta Castorini, the nearing 40 bookkeeper whose husband of two years was killed in an accident, has given up on true love. Instead, she keeps company with the harmless and equally boring Johnny Cammareri, wonderfully played by Danny Aiello. And when the kindly but uninspiring gent asks our gal for her hand and she accedes to an unthreatening marriage of accommodation, we issue a note of exasperation. Because, you see, whether in real life or our stories, none of us wants the knockoff brand of love.
But hark and eureka, it wouldn't be much of a tale if that's how it went, with Loretta, per Thoreau's famous quote, living out her days in "quiet desperation." Hence, proving that you can indeed make this stuff up, and get away with it famously if you're a good writer, entering stage right just as Johnny leaves Brooklyn for Sicily to see his dying mother is Nicolas Cage's Ronny Cammareri, Johnny's brother and fiery opposite. He is a one-armed baker with a passion for bread and opera, and now, after meeting Loretta who stopped by to drop off a wedding invite, would exult, as Duke Ellington and Paul Francis Webster collaborated to say, "I Got it Bad (And That Ain't Good)."
But the moon over Brooklyn, proffered as a symbol and herald of Cupid's influence, is much too bright and auspicious to allow for just one romance in this feature-length survey of love.
Supplying the parallel to Loretta's helpless dance into the throes of enchantment and passion, her Mom, brilliantly etched by Olympia Dukakis, has recently been concerned with the suspicious comings and goings of her husband of 40 years, exacted in whimsical splendor by Vincent Gardenia.
My favorite line from the well-heeled plumber, which I've adopted to use when I don't quite want to answer a question, comes when Gardenia's Cosmo comes home a bit late one night (Psst. He's been out with his goomah). Asks Dukakis' Rose Castorini, the yarn's anguished representative of long-abiding love, "Where you been, Cosmo?" Rushing through the foyer to get upstairs in the brick mansion his plumbing success has afforded, feigning befuddlement, he cursorily responds, "Rose, I don't know where I've been; I don't know where I'm going."
It's schmaltz Italian style, an homage to what makes the world go 'round, lovingly evinced through an ensemble of wonderfully affable characterizations. And while it may seem at moments that you've been at long last entrusted with the secret of love, "Moonstruck" is but a wisp of joyous tantalization, perhaps meant to inspire your own, firsthand investigation. And hey, how could you not be enamored of a movie whose title song declares, "When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore?"
"Moonstruck," rated PG, is a Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer release directed by Norman Jewison and stars Cher, Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia. Running time: 102 minutes