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Moonstruck, the 1987 multi-Oscar winning romantic comedy about a very Italian family, may seem an odd choice coming from the Irish pen of playwright John Patrick Shanley, but not so much when one looks at the writer's youth - growing up in a typical urban "melting pot" neighborhood. This kind of upbringing is almost essential for any showbiz-oriented actors, actresses, directors and writers (For example, James Cagney, the son of an Irish father and a Norwegian mother, could, at the drop of a hat, segue into fluent Yiddish, a feat which occasionally would emerge in his many film roles). Shanley's artistry is beautifully balanced by director Norman Jewison's superb ability to zero in on ethnic clashes, foibles and triumphs (honed in In the Heat of the Night, 1967), plus priceless comic training gleaned during the Sixties in hits like The Thrill of It All (1963) and The Russians Are Coming! The Russians Are Coming! (1966). Together they combine to mine the gold of this hilarious and often raucous look at two clans torn asunder by an attractive widow's longtime courtship by a good but none-too-bright boyfriend, paralleled with the lady's torrid wooing by the lovesick schnook's passionate brother.
Unquestionably, much of Moonstruck's popularity was due to the wonderful ensemble cast, including Danny Aiello and Nicolas Cage as the brothers, and, particularly Olympia Dukakis, who won the Best Supporting Actress honors, and Vincent Gardenia, nominated for Best Supporting Actor. The latter two portray the parents of the movie's key player, Cher, who, rightfully and not surprisingly copped the year's Best Actress honors. How an Armenian/Cherokee actress seamlessly became a Brooklynese Italian-American can be easily explained by her amazing knack for mimicry, which first emerged on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (1971-1977) during her marriage to Sonny Bono. During and after that liaison, Cher would frequently regale friends and relatives with hysterical dead-on impersonations of her mother-in-law, which no doubt, provided invaluable training for her role of Loretta Castorini. Additional aid came from the actress' addiction to cinema, watching and learning from Hollywood's celebrated past. The extent of Cher's devout movie fandom, belying her party animal personae, recently surfaced in an interview when she described her idea of a great time as "...having one whole day to do nothing but stay in bed and watch Turner Classic Movies." And who can argue with that?
Director/Producer: Norman Jewison
Producer: Patrick Palmer, Lee Rich
Screenwriter: John Patrick Shanley, Patrick Shanley
Cinematographer: David Watkin
Composer: Dick Hyman
Editor: Lou Lombardo
Production Designer: Philip Rosenberg
Associate Producer: Bonnie Palef-Woolf
Set Designer: Phil Smith
Costume Designer: Theoni V. Aldredge
Cast: Cher (Loretta), Nicolas Cage (Ronny), Vincent Gardenia (Cosmo), Olympia Dukakis (Rose), Danny Aiello (Johnny), Julie Bovasso (Rita), John Mahoney (Perry)
C-102m. Letterboxed. Closed captioning.
By Mel Neuhaus