Tag Archives: Olympia Dukakis

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).


RELATED

Advertisements

The Pentagon Wars (1998, Richard Benjamin)

I can’t remember why I queued The Pentagon Wars. When it started, I kept waiting for the writing credits because I figured it must have been for the writers (it wasn’t). The Pentagon Wars chronicles a colonel’s efforts to get the Pentagon to responsibly develop an armored personnel carrier. It’s also an absurdist comedy. Kelsey Grammer’s the bad guy, the general who can’t answer a straight question and is just waiting for his cushy defense industry job post-retirement. The film alternates between being laugh out-loud funny (Grammer’s fantastic) and depressing. The military-industrial complex shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone and the film actually skirts over that issue quite a bit. Instead, it concentrates on just how much the Pentagon brass is willing to sacrifice troop safety for fashionable accouterments.

The Pentagon Wars was an HBO movie (produced by Jersey Films, which explains some of the quality) and director Richard Benjamin never quite makes it anything more than a televised film. There’s no real character development, no real character arcs, no real character relationships. There’s a bunch of good acting–Grammer, Richard Schiff, John C. McGinley, and Tom Wright (actually, Benjamin’s fine in his cameo too)–and the film’s scenically constructed to allow these actors to amuse. As the straight man, Cary Elwes gives his standard wooden performance. While the script doesn’t involve itself too much with the depth of Elwes’s character, he’s still entirely incapable of giving it any. That arrangement works out, because no matter how many times Elwes fails, the film isn’t requiring him to do anything.

The film, though it never actually quite earns that descriptor, manages to endear itself (mostly due to Benjamin’s amiable handling and the performances). Watching the film–even appreciating it and its humor and its successes (it’s a safe quirky)–I kept wanting it to take itself seriously, as its subject is not a particularly frivolous one. When the seriousness finally did arrive, it came too late–and then the film called upon Elwes… and he couldn’t handle it (surprise, surprise). Still, the attempt was enough to hinder the experience.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Richard Benjamin; screenplay by Jamie Malanowski and Marytn Burke, based on the book by James Burton; director of photography, Robert D. Yeoman; edited by Jacqueline Cambas; music by Joseph Vitarelli; production designer, Vincent M. Cresciman; produced by Howard Meltzer; released by Home Box Office.

Starring Kelsey Grammer (Maj. Gen. Partridge), Cary Elwes (Lt. Col. James Burton), Viola Davis (Platoon Sgt. Fanning), John C. McGinley (Col. J.D. Bock), Tom Wright (Maj. William Sayers), Clifton Powell (Sgt. Benjamn Dalton), Dewey Weber (Sp4 Ganger), Richard Schiff (Col. / Brig. Gen. Robert Laurel Smith), J.C. MacKenzie (Jones), Richard Benjamin (Caspar Weinberger) and Olympia Dukakis (Madam Chairwoman, Armed Services Committee).


RELATED