Shoot the Moon
Cast & Crew
George and Faith's marriage is disinigrating after fifteen years, four daughters and a converted farmhouse together. Despite the seemingly happy domestic picture, George feels empty and begins an affair. Faith eventually follows suit and takes up with the contractor rebuiling the family tennis court. When George discovers his wife's affair, he becomes irrational. He wants to live with his mistress, but he doesn't want his wife sleeping with other men. Meanwhile, his daughters now detest him.
James S Cranna
James M Arnett
W Stewart Campbell
Gary M Hinds
Francois X Moullin
George R. Nelson
Edgar J. Scherick
Timothy B Schmit
Doug Von Koss
Clarence H Walker
Joe M Winters
Shoot the Moon
As the film begins, Finney's paterfamilias, George Dunlap, and his wife, Diane Keaton's aptly named Faith, have already fought the kind of war that produces only losers, no winners. He's been seeking solace from Karen Allen's divorcee with a small son of her own and his wife knows it. Out of residual loyalty she accompanies him to a literary awards dinner in San Francisco. There, in a sulfuric mix of satire and irony, she's immediately marginalized. As he's rushed into a huddle with a publicity man, paparazzi snap away and a caption writer dismissively labels the shot of their arrival as "George Dunlap and friend," she hastens to correct him. "No, I'm not his friend, I'm his wife," she says. She zombies through the evening as their kids sit home on the sofa, laughing and cheering as they recognize their parents on TV. When the grim drive home ends with him declaring his intention to pack a bag and leave, she replies: "It's already packed. I packed it last night."
This would come at or near the end of most breakup films. Here, though, it's just the beginning. Alone, it doesn't take Faith's brave front long to crumble. Immersed in a tub, joint in hand, weeping, she croons snatches of The Beatles' "If I Fell." The film's most heartrending scene shows her drained, in bed, unable to pick herself up from the mattress while her 13-year-old bravely and loyally struggles to fill her mom's shoes, cramming breakfast into her three younger sisters before they catch their school bus. Keaton here reaches depths of emotional nakedness and conviction that she has never surpassed. While director Alan Parker (at the time the father of four small children) and screenwriter Bo Goldman (father of six) have said how they arrived at the script by meeting for weeks and speaking of their own marriages - it shows - Keaton reached into the emotional aftermath of her own off-screen breakup with Warren Beatty. Parker and Goldman each went on record as saying they initially resented the notes Keaton would give them about her character. By the end, though, they acknowledged that she deepened and enriched Faith in ways they hadn't considered.
Often her hesitations, ambivalences, sentences begun but never finished, pullbacks immediately following flirty glances from her wide eyes, seemed to stand between the post-Annie Hall (1977) Keaton and the characters she played, becoming mannerisms - alluring, but mannerisms nonetheless. In Shoot the Moon, however, they seem to arise from within the character, from within Keaton's own reservoir of pain transmuted into Faith's. Perhaps paradoxically, though, Faith is the stronger of the two characters. She's flattened when George storms out, making no secret of his feelings of imprisonment. But she's the resilient one, not him. When she begins an affair with Peter Weller's younger contractor who shows up to build the tennis court she forgot she contracted for before the marital implosion, it's partly payback for her husband's unfaithfulness, but partly a testing of her emerging sense of recovery. Throughout, she's the one who seems rooted and solid. Her derailment, severe as it is at its low point, seems temporary.
Part of the astuteness of Shoot the Moon's screenplay involves the awareness of the other two adults in the uneven equation. Allen's single mom and Weller's young buck a little thrown by the stirrings of feeling he wasn't prepared to have for Faith each indicate an instinctive awareness that they're not involved in a quadrangle, but are subsidiary players in an ongoing entwinement of two people whose feelings for one another didn't walk out the door with George. The scene in which Faith decides to offer herself to Weller's becomingly shy, polite, reserved Frank is managed with nuance and tenderness. Allen's Sandy hangs back a bit emotionally, especially after she notes that George can't wait to move in with her until he's actually there. Once he is, he spends a lot of time looking back over his shoulder at the relationship he thought he was abandoning. But George's and Faith's feelings for one another, irretrievably damaged or not, persist. When Sandy looks him in the eye and says, "If you don't come through, I'll find someone else," we realize it stems from her realization that she might have to.
Sandy can't afford a wallow; she's anchored to the real day-to-day need to get through life with an eye to the needs of her dependent young son. If it's true for her, it's true in quadruplicate for Faith and George, separated or not. If Faith is assailed by doubts about her sexuality and ability to attract kindness and love from a man who feels right to her, George's bluster can't conceal the ambivalence in his heart. He wanted to go, but once gone, he finds that he wants to stay, to exert power and even control over his soon to be ex and their kids. He behaves badly, especially toward his eldest daughter, breaking into the house in the film's most jolting episode and spanking her when she rejects him and his birthday present; she responds by saying she hates him for what she sees as his treachery, then offers him a band-aid for a cut on the hand he used to smash a pane of door glass to gain entrance.
To the film's credit, it makes clear that the kids aren't just add-ons. It would be easy to overlook the silliness of Parker's freaky little kid gangster movie, Bugsy Malone (1976), or even the formulaic slickness of his Fame (1980), prototype of TV's flood of synthetic high school showbiz sagas, if that's what it took to pave the way for the naturalness of the kids' performances here. Their give-and-take, their effortless flips from precocious sophistication to infantile reversion, is note-perfect. They're the ones who never stop reminding us that their loss is not only of a father, but of the moral compass they had hitherto taken for granted, of which they are now bereft, and without which they might never be as whole again. The performance of Dana Hill as the 13-year-old with one foot in childhood and the other on the threshold of a terrifying adult world of sex and emotional storms and other upheavals, is fully the equal of Keaton's and Finney's. Hill, who tragically died at the age of 32 from complications of diabetes, was 18 when she was cast as 13-year-old Sherry, which is part of the reason she's able to seem wiser than her years while simultaneously seeming overwhelmed by her conflicting feelings.
Shoot the Moon is so filled with right choices that its one conspicuously wrong move is jarring. It takes place in a hotel dining room, where George and Faith each show up, unaware that the other is going to be there. They share a plate of salad, quarrel, drink, and wind up going to bed, to the deliberately grotesque counterpoint of a lounge pianist playing - yes -- "Don't Blame Me," and sounding like she's singing it underwater. The song is better left as a rueful diminuendo and the scene would have been better left on the cutting room floor. It's the one time Finney and Keaton seem uncomfortable, forced, actor-y. It's not a major lapse, just a flaw in what otherwise is a jewel, perhaps an accursed one like the Hope Diamond. The title, by the way, comes from the card game known as hearts. As if that weren't metaphor enough, it specifically refers to a risky stratagem that involves winning the game by holding penalty cards, then palming them off on your opponents. Finney's outwardly successful but inwardly imploding author is holding a lot of penalty cards, and seems likely to be left holding them all. Not that you need know anything about the card game to be totally drawn into the bruising, if not shattering, real-life game of hearts upon which these anguished souls embark.
Producer: Alan Marshall
Director: Alan Parker
Screenplay: Bo Goldman
Cinematography: Michael Seresin
Art Direction: Stu Campbell
Film Editing: Gerry Hambling
Cast: Albert Finney (George Dunlap), Diane Keaton (Faith Dunlap), Karen Allen (Sandy), Peter Weller (Frank Henderson), Dana Hill (Sherry Dunlap), Viveka Davis (Jill Dunlap), Tracey Gold (Marianne Dunlap), Tina Yothers (Molly Dunlap), George Murdock (French DeVoe), Leora Dana (Charlotte DeVoe).
by Jay Carr
Diane Keaton: The Story of the Real Annie Hall, by Jonathan Moore, St. Martin's, 1989
Sight and Sound 30, No. 2 (Spring, 1961): Albert Finney and Mary Ure Talking about Acting
The Great Movie Stars 2: The International Years, by David Shipman, Macdonald, 1989
Film Actor's Guide, by David LuKanic, Lone Eagle Publishing, 1998
The Film Encyclopedia, by Ephraim Katz, Harper Perennial, 1998
World Film Directors, Vol. II: 1945-1985, edited by John Wakeman, H. W. Wilson Company, 1988
Interview with Alan Parker, by Julian Dibbell, Village Voice, Aug. 20, 1991
Dana Hill obituary, by Michael A. Lipton, People Magazine, July 24, 1995
Pauline Kael review, The New Yorker, Jan. 18, 1982
David Denby review, New York Magazine, Jan. 25, 1982
Shoot the Moon
Released in United States Winter January 22, 1982
Released in United States Winter January 22, 1982