Jewison’s other 1980’s Best Picture nominee was completely different from A Soldier’s Story in almost every conceivable way. That’s because Moonstruck is the dictionary definition of a romantic comedy as it focuses on one thirty-seven year old widow and her assorted family members.
Moonstruck stars Cher in the lead role of Loretta Castorini whose first husband was run over by a bus, an incident she believes is based on the fact that she didn’t have a proper wedding. One of Moonstruck’s earlier scenes sees Loretta’s latest lover Johnny propose marriage, an offer she accepts on the proviso that they do everything properly. As Johnny is forced to leave the country to visit his dying mother, he asks Loretta to invite his estranged brother Ronny to their wedding. However the hot-heated Ronny is still angry with Johnny as he feels that his brother is responsible for him injuring his hand in a bread-cutting incident. Loretta appears to be attracted by Ronny’s fiery nature and she is much more taken with him than she ever has been with Johnny. The pair seem to have a natural connection with each other and quickly end up in bed together. Running alongside Loretta’s story is that of her plumber father Cosmo and his long-suffering wife Rose. Rose is aware that Cosmo is having an affair whilst Loretta discovers this later when she spies her father and his mistress at the opera. Rose appears to know her lot in life and shares quite a touching moment at a restaurant with college professor Perry when they both find themselves alone at a restaurant. Moonstruck’s final scene is a great fifteen minute comic set-piece which sees all of the film’s loose ends tied up as it focuses on this multi-generational American-Sicilian family.
It’s fair to say it took me at least ten minutes to really get into Moonstruck, but once I’d got to grips with the characters and their lingo I was hooked. John Patrick Shanley’s Oscar-winning script presents plenty of realistic characters, most of whom I’m assuming he based on real people. The result is a well-observed and ultimately quite funny look at the nature of relationships and what makes a solid marriage. At just over ninety minutes, Moonstruck is incredibly well-paced and really limits itself to three or four key moments meaning that there is very little in the film that doesn’t have a purpose. I personally felt that Cher was brilliantly understated in the lead role of the meek Loretta who married once for love and won’t do it again. At the same time I’m not quite sure if she deserved her Best Actress Oscar especially as she triumphed over Holly Hunter’s magnificent turn in Broadcast News. Having said that Cher does make us sympathise with a character who may have been hard to sympathise in the hands of another actress. One performance that was more deserving of an Oscar was that of Olympia Dukakis who absolutely shone in the role of Loretta’s mother Rose. Dukakis shone in the latter half of the film, particularly opposite John Mahoney’s Perry, and for that I don’t begrudge her her Best Supporting Actress prize. I personally also enjoyed Vincent Gardenia’s turn as the Castorini patriarch Cosmo who, despite his wealth, is still fairly frugal. In fact the whole cast was splendid and I’d like to particularly praise Nicolas Cage for his impassioned turn as the impulsive Ronny. The construction of Loretta’s whole neighbourhood was lovingly done and it appears as if both Shanley and Jewison have a real appreciation for the culture as a whole. Whilst Moonstruck was definitely a strong romantic comedy that entertained me thoroughly throughout it didn’t really have the feel of a Best Picture contender. However the film did well at the Oscars and it also proved a fruitful swansong for Jewison who wouldn’t have another film in the Best Picture line-up again.