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In this romantic comedy, an Italian American woman from Brooklyn — who believes she’s cursed with bad luck — falls in love with her fiancé’s much younger brother. But it’s about love and family and why people are the way they are.
Cher stars as Loretta Castorini in an Oscar-winning performance, while a very young Nicolas Cage, back when he was a man and not a meme, plays Ronny Cammareri, the object of Loretta’s conflicted affection. The late Olympia Dukakis plays Loretta’s mother in another Oscar-winning performance.
Moonstruck is a perfect movie. It’s not the best movie ever made (though it’s up there), but it is perfect. Mention it to anyone, and they’ll say “Oh, I love that movie.” It’s a crowdpleaser that panders to no one and dances to its own peculiar rhythm. It gives you exactly what you want, but not in a way you ever would have thought to ask for. It has a magic that’s hard to describe. It just feels like life in a way that movies usually don’t. It’s funny in a way where the humor comes from how the characters act, which is the same way people you love are funny. Your dad isn’t funny because he says clever things or gets in comedic situations, he’s funny because he’s your dad and you know the weird, particular things he does.
Moonstruck is like that. The characters feel like your family members, even if you’re seeing the movie for the first time, and even if you’re not Italian. It locates universal feelings about love through a very culturally and behaviorally specific set of characters. John Patrick Shanley won an Oscar for his screenplay, and it was richly deserved. Director-producer Noman Jewison was nominated for Best Director and Best Picture, because he understood Shanley’s offbeat script in a way that a lesser filmmaker wouldn’t.
That understanding extends to the performances, too. Cher is remarkable as Loretta, who is very practical but can’t deny her romantic streak when she meets her nice-but-not-right-for-her fiancé Johnny’s (Danny Aiello) estranged brother Ronny. Olivia Dukakis is brilliant as the wise Rose Castorini, who loves her husband even though he’s cheating on her, because she’s been married long enough to know who he is and who she is, with him and independently of him. And Cage is magnetic as Ronny, a man of explosive passion and surprising depth.
Moonstruck is a movie that can be watched over and over again. It’s warm and comforting, and it feels like spending time with people you love. And every time you watch it, you’ll find some funny little throwaway line or side character to appreciate anew. It does exactly what you want a movie like this to do, which is to warm your heart, make you laugh, and feel a little wistful. It’s perfect.
Part of what makes Moonstruck so special is that it has cross-generational appeal. An open-minded 18-year-old will like it as much as an 80-year-old who doesn’t want to watch something dirty. But really, it’s the perfect movie for parents and adult children to watch together. It’s basically a family movie that’s not for kids. It’s rated PG, but an ‘80s PG, which would be PG-13 now.