Moonstruck

by Carlos Tseng

It’s hard to believe that Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck is now 30 years old. In 2018, the film is still a delight to watch. It’s funny, energetic and the warmth radiated by the cast has not been replicated by any film since. There may be better known romantic comedies, but I highly recommend Moonstruck not just for the laughs but because it is richly endearing.

The film opens by introducing us to Loretta Castorini (Cher), a widowed book-keeper who is proposed to by Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). We find out that Loretta and her family are very superstitious, believing that her husband died due to “bad luck” as the wedding and marriage did not follow traditional conventions. Loretta, therefore, forces Johnny to go down on his knees and give her his pinkie ring to avoid more “bad luck”. Before leaving to visit his sick mother in Sicily, Johnny tells Loretta to contact his estranged brother Ronny (Nicholas Cage) and invite him to the wedding. Unbeknownst to her however, she begins to fall in love with the hot-tempered Ronny who blames Johnny for losing his hand and fiancée some years earlier. When Ronny later also invites Loretta to a performance of La Boheme, her own family secrets also come to light.

Although the Castorini family believe in following traditional conventions in order to avoid “bad luck”, it would seem that it is the unconventionality of Moonstruck which has led audiences to continue returning to it some 30 years later. Originally titled ‘The Bride and the Wolf’, Norman Jewison changed the title believing that the title sounded too much like a horror film. Indeed, the new title Moonstruck was more appropriate as all the characters talk about the moon to some extent. One of my favourite moments is when Loretta’s Aunt Rita (Julie Bavasso), tells her husband Raymond (Louis Guss) that when he stands by their moonlit bedroom window he looks 25 years old, to which he gushes and begins to cuddle Rita in bed.

Nicholas Cage may not be recognised as the best actor in recent times, but here, as the baker with one hand, it’s not hard to see why he ends up getting the girl. Olympia Dukakis is also brilliant as Loretta’s straight-faced mother, Rose. She questions man’s nature when she realizes her husband, Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia) is having an affair. Dukakis also ended up winning the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role. But the star of Moonstruck really is Cher who brought home the Oscar for Best Actress as the Italian widow who falls in love with her fiancée’s younger brother. Who can forget the scene where she slaps Cage and says the iconic line: “SNAP OUT OF IT”? Cher brings her audience to Brooklyn and captures our hearts with her brilliant comic timing and charisma. Her ability to bring Loretta Castorini to life is truly enchanting.

I don’t know why Moonstruck is not more popular, it is an endearing romantic comedy. The charming nature of Norman Jewison’s film has earned it the #8 spot on the American Film Institute’s Top 10 Romantic Comedy films. It’s hard to find a film like Moonstruck nowadays so I very much recommend you give this a viewing if you haven’t already seen it. And, if you don’t like it… Blame it on the moon.

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