This week we spend Beauty in the Movies under a full moon in Brooklyn surrounded by lovable characters in the film Moonstruck, which will keep you laughing as you contemplate the deepest parts of life and love.
Loretta Castorini (Cher) is a 37-year-old Italian-American widow living in her family’s brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. When her boyfriend Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello) proposes marriage before he leaves for Italy to visit his dying mother, she accepts. Johnny then tasks her with inviting his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage with his original teeth) to their wedding. When Loretta visits Ronny at his bakery she finds a tortured man with a wooden hand, who blames his brother for his troubles. After cooking him a steak and analyzing his problems, Loretta finds herself aggressively in love with her future brother-in-law.
Meanwhile, Loretta’s parents are engaged in dramas of their own. Her mother, Rose (Olympia Dukakis), is sure her husband, Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia), is cheating. Rose’s suspicions send her on a quest for answers from any man she can find, including an NYU professor (John Mahoney) who chases his female students.
Cher won an academy award for her acting in this film, but she is just one of many wonderful performances given in Moonstruck. There are amazing supporting characters including Loretta’s aunt (Julie Bovasso), uncle (Louis Guss), and grandfather (Italian actor Feodor Chaliapin Jr.) all of whom convey an incredible amount of personality in the short time they’re on screen.
Opera plays a large part in the film, Puccini’s La bohème specifically. The story doesn’t mirror the opera, but the lives of these characters weave themselves into their own larger-than-life opera as the story progresses towards the climactic finale. The writing is fantastic, the dialogue has a rhythm found primarily in New York Italian families, but it works so easily that it doesn’t feel strained or stereotypical, which is quite a feat.
Moonstruck is about three things—love, family, and death, maybe food too, but mostly it’s about those three essential parts of life. This film gives us the, sometimes much-needed, affirmation that we will all die someday—which is why it’s so important to live. Loretta is about to marry a man she doesn’t love because it’s practical, but life intervenes in her plans and she is powerless to stop it. Often in life what is the most logical choice isn’t what feels right to us, and that’s what makes humans such interesting creatures.
This film handles topics that could easily fall into cliché (marriage, cheating, romance) but it does so in a way that feels real and even surprising. While it might be a romantic comedy, it’s also about knowing who you are and what you want, not just finding your perfect someone. Often, films about love are lacking in anything but romance, but love comes in many forms and is only one part of the larger story of a person’s life. Moonstruck gives us the bigger view, love and death exist everywhere and they’re constantly interacting to give life new meaning—what really matters is that you can accept both when they come into your life, and of course, don’t forget to look up at that beautiful moon every once in a while.
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