I was six or seven when Moonstruck came out. I never saw it then and never really thought about it in the years since. But that iconic image of Cher in front of the giant full moon seems as familiar now as when it was painted on the side of my local video shop 25 years ago. And that was the extent of absolutely everything I knew about this movie until now.
As a longtime widow who has avoided commitment ever since the death of her first husband made her think she is inherently unlucky in love, Cher plays the middle aged Loretta. Out to dinner with her boyfriend, Danny Aiello’s Johnny, he convinces her to rethink her beliefs in luck and say yes to his marriage proposal. Almost immediately, Johnny has to leave for Sicily where his aged mother is on her death bead. His one request is for Loretta to track down his estranged brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage) and convince him to come to the wedding.
Surrounding Loretta are her parents, played by Olympia Dukakis and Vincent Gardenia, and on the edges are John Mahoney as Perry, and Mona (Anita Gillette). Through various acts of infidelity, examinations on what it means to be in a relationship and the odd bit of good old fashioned coincidence, every member of this sprawling cast eventually has a major effect on each other in some way as their stories intertwine, parallel and feed off one another
Cher and Dukakis both won Oscars for their performances, and that makes sense for Dukakis. But Cher was the weak link in Moonstruck for me. The degree and intensity of her New York accent really is all over the shop. Although the stand out, and it really shouldn’t be a surprise, is Nicolas Cage.
Nobody does whacked out weirdo who’s somehow scary and loveable at the same time, better than Cage. Really, when a character has a wooden hand because they chopped off their own fingers and their first lines of dialogue is, “Bring me the big knife. I want to cut my throat”, there’s really no other choice than to cast Ridiculous Cage.
In some ways a sweet romance about the nature of true love, destiny and the inevitability of finding ‘the one’, Moonstruck somehow manages to also inject a kind of cynical realism here and there to make sure the sweetness is never too overbearing or sickening.
This sardonic edge is summed up perfectly in an exchange between mother and daughter when Cher first tells Dukakis that she’s going to marry Aiello. Dukakis asks if Cher loves him, the daughter matter of factly and immediately says she does not love him, but that she des like him. The motherly wisdom that follows is, “Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.”
I had no idea what to expect from Moonstruck. All I knew was the name and that it starred Cher. I had no idea about Cage or Dukakis or Aiello. I had no idea what the story was about in the slightest. And in the end, I think all the unexpectedness really worked in the movie’s favour. Ironic then, that if you’re still reading this review, you won’t have the same advantage. Sorry about that.