Sunday, December 17, 2017

To See or Not to See: Over the moon for Moonstruck

July 13, 2016 by Finlay Pogue, contributing writer


I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: no other genre of film has more potential to be transcendental than the rom-com, which is why it’s also so easy for rom-coms to go wildly and disastrously astray. Moonstruck (1987) lands itself a spot among the transcendental; it’s in the upper echelon of the romantic-comedy canon, capable of standing shoulder to shoulder with the great films of Woody Allen and Hall Ashby.

Like Allen’s and Ashby’s work, Moonstruck has a wonderfully brittle shell between its humour and its poignant observations; oftentimes what comes out as a joke lingers for the emotion it stirs inside us. The film melds together as many aspects of love as it can muster: humour, frustration, helplessness, betrayal, passion, love-struck (or moon-struck) abandon, a bit of magic, and luck.

It deals with the young and the old, and it contrasts the youthful exuberance of Loretta (Cher) and Ronny (Nicolas Cage) with their parents and grandparents, who, in their own way, are each as exuberant as their kin.

In fact, I was struck by the way the film portrays its old people as both refreshing and moving. The elderly characters aren’t tossed off with a shrug as “the one that’s dying,” or “the one that’s mean,” or “the one that’s wise”—they are all living for each day, as any character ought to be. Moonstruck does not treat them as an emotional commodities but as virile human beings that want only to live and to love.

This is not a film of realism, but because of that it’s able to capture the surrealism of romantic (and familial) relationships. Aspects of human nature are exaggerated or omitted; circumstances are tampered with for comedic or emotional effect; it’s because of these tweaks that we’re able to experience the romantic-comedy formula anew.

Moonstruck is written very intelligently (John Patrick Shanley takes credit for the screenplay); even some of the corny lines stem from a person being carried away in their emotions rather than from the pen of an out-of-touch Hollywood hack.

While there are elements of this film that haven’t held up so well—aspects of the plot would now seem a tad played out, and, fashion-wise, it is very much a film of 1987—there are elements that will hold up forever.

These elements make finding a good romantic comedy similar to finding love in one’s own life: although you have to walk along a seemingly endless trail of flops, you end up finding gems that make every hardship endured more than worth it.

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