Tag Archives: Norman Jewison

Other People’s Money (1991, Norman Jewison)

Despite all Danny DeVito’s vulgar innuendos–though there are a couple missed opportunities–Other People’s Money is a rather chaste film. Director Jewison’s model for it is a Hollywood classic, with exquisite gowns for DeVito’s love interest slash rival, Penelope Ann Miller, and hats for the men.

With photography from Haskell Wexler and Alvin Sargent’s thoughtful, deliberate screenplay (though that thoughtfulness might be from Jerry Sterner’s source play), Money is extremely elegant. DeVito playing a variation on his bombastic, obnoxious persona for the first thirty minutes only makes the elegance more striking.

The film opens with DeVito positioned against not Miller, but Gregory Peck, Piper Laurie and Dean Jones (Jones is fantastic in the film). He’s an amusing villain… nothing more. Then Miller enters and Money changes. Jewison has the problem of making a romance believable between the refined Miller and the trollish DeVito. And he solves it. The very slow humanizing of DeVito is one of Money‘s best elements, as DeVito, Jewison and Sargent have structured the character so it’s not a development, just a delayed revelation.

While DeVito’s excellent, Miller’s more impressive because she has to contend with him. Jewison’s composition puts a lot of importance on sight line and Miller sells every scene. It helps Miller’s character has a layered personality too.

R.D. Call and Mo Gaffney are good in smaller roles.

The film’s third act, unfortunately, wobbles quite a bit. Luckily, DeVito, Miller and Jewison’s previous successes are able to override it.

Money‘s an excellent picture.

3/4★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Norman Jewison; screenplay by Alvin Sargent, based on the play by Jerry Sterner; director of photography, Haskell Wexler; edited by Hubert C. de la Bouillerie, Lou Lombardo and Michael Pacek; music by David Newman; production designer, Philip Rosenberg; produced by Jewison and Ric Kidney; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Danny DeVito (Lawrence Garfield), Penelope Ann Miller (Kate Sullivan), Piper Laurie (Bea Sullivan), Dean Jones (Bill Coles), R.D. Call (Arthur), Mo Gaffney (Harriet), Bette Henritze (Emma), Tom Aldredge (Ozzie), Leila Kenzle (Marcia) and Gregory Peck (Andrew Jorgenson).


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Moonstruck (1987, Norman Jewison)

I’ve seen Moonstruck once before–though I’d forgotten the terrible opening titles–and I think (I repressed the experience) that time I had the same response I just had this time. Moonstruck makes me worried I have brain damage. The first three quarters of the film, roughly until the very good scene between John Mahoney and Olympia Dukakis–one of the film’s two scenes of any merit–is something of a blur to me. It’s either entirely incoherent, some kind of audio visual LSD or my brain is simply shutting down and restarting every few seconds in the vain hope I’ve stopped watching the film.

The film owes quite a bit to Airplane!, which I wasn’t aware of when I started watching it this time–seriously, I didn’t remember it being quite so terrible–it’s probably the worst film I’ve sat through since Crash. There are all these lame, Airplane!-like jokes, except they aren’t funny. They’re actually rather desperate. I’d list them, but my brain’s already started repairing, so I cannot. Except the last one, with Danny Aiello forgetting his luggage all the time. Ha ha. Just like Crash, Moonstruck is Academy material.

There are a couple things to talk about it, before I run out of time (I’ve been eating tortillas with omega-3 added, so the neurological repairs are probably speedy). I’ll start with the actors, because I can sum up the other bit–about writer John Patrick Shanley–by simply saying he stinks.

Cher has a terrible accent and lousy dialogue. Her character is a witch with a b at the beginning–except the film doesn’t seem to recognize it. Everyone in Moonstruck is entirely self-absorbed. It’s like watching an unfunny “Seinfeld.” But at the beginning, the example I’m thinking of, involves Aiello’s dying mother and Cher being absolutely insensitive to it. She’s even hostile about it. It made me hate her. I don’t often hate fictional characters, but I hated Cher’s character. I didn’t start liking her until after she dyed her hair and stopped talking so much. The strange thing about her performance is it probably would appear good on mute. Her expressions, her physical performance, are good. Speaking of her dying her hair, Moonstruck very strangely objectifies her.

Anyway, there’s also the whole thing about Vincent Gardenia being a lovable adulterer. It’s too much to get into, but it’s astounding.

Nicolas Cage is actually pretty good in the first half. In the second half he has some of the worst dialogue in the film, so he’s terrible. But in the beginning, he’s fine.

Aiello’s lousy.

Louis Guss and Julie Bovasso are both good.

There are lots of nonsensical details, ones I can’t remember–I’m not even going to discuss Shanley in detail, I don’t want to kill any already mangled brain cells. My new favorite is Cher’s engagement ring–she’s wearing it on the wrong finger.

I’m trying to think of anything good to say about Moonstruck, but it’s pretty much impossible. Editor Lou Lombardo has one of the worst jump cuts I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. Actually, that point brings up an interesting comparison–Moonstruck‘s so incompetently written, Troma wouldn’t have greenlighted the script. Umm… the photography frequently doesn’t match because the effects shots of the moon are so terrible. Director Norman Jewison doesn’t have a single good shot in the whole picture, not even during the two good scenes.

I’m just glad I’ll have this response preserved in perpetuity… so I never make the mistake of watching this film again. Unless I’m trying to compare it to a hallucinogenic depressant.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Directed by Norman Jewison; written by John Patrick Shanley; director of photography, David Watkin; edited by Lou Lombardo; music by Dick Hyman; production designer, Philip Rosenberg; produced by Patrick J. Palmer and Jewison; released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Starring Cher (Loretta Castorini), Nicolas Cage (Ronny Cammareri), Vincent Gardenia (Cosmo Castorini), Olympia Dukakis (Rose Castorini), Danny Aiello (Mr. Johnny Cammareri), Julie Bovasso (Rita Cappomaggi), John Mahoney (Perry) and Louis Guss (Raymond Cappomaggi).


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