(Nicolas Cage, Cher, Vincent Gardenia, et al / Blu Ray / NR / (1987) 2011 / MGM)
Overview: When there's a full moon over Brooklyn, anything can happen, and everything happens in the neighborhood where widowed bookkeeper Loretta Castorini (Cher) lives. First, Loretta agrees to marry a man she does not love, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), simply because he knows how to propose properly. Before the wedding can take place, Cammareri must visit his dying mother in Sicily. In his absence, Loretta is supposed to try to patch up the differences between Johnny and his brother, bakery operator Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage).
Blu ray Verdict: Norman Jewison's 'Moonstruck' is a Romantic Comedy that stands above almost all in that genre. The cast, first of all, is a marvel, made up for the most part of character actors, but these are not bit players. Olympia Dukakis, for example, as the Italian mother Rose, won the Academy Award for supporting actress here. In the lead as Loretta Castorini, Cher also won her Oscar. Their performances are astonishingly good, but they are surrounded by a dozen other performances that make this film live and breathe.
Thirty-something, Loretta lives at home with Rose and father Cosmo, played brilliantly by Vincent Gardenia and grandfather, played by Italian treasure Feodor Chaliapin. In the opening scene long-time boyfriend Johnny Cammareri, played by Danny Aiello, proposes to Loretta in the neighborhood restaurant where everyone knows everyone. Loretta has scarcely had a moment to agree before Johnny tells her that he must return to his mother's death-bed in Italy and for her to ask his estranged brother Ronny to come to the wedding.
Loretta finds Ronny slaving over a basement bakery, still fuming that he lost his girl years ago because Brother Johnny distracted him and Ronny lost his hand in a bread slicer. Ronny is bigger than life, like one of the characters from the operas he loves, full of passions both good and bad. He is so distracted from his lost love and hate for his brother he doesn't notice the cute girl in the bakery is gone on him. Loretta performs her duties and asks Ronny to the wedding.
The Loretta in the early part of the film is a wallflower, and you get the idea that she accepts Johnny's proposal because she doesn't think she'll get a better (or perhaps another) offer. The operatically unhappy Ronny is nonetheless passionate, and he awakens something in Loretta while Johnny is away.
Romantic comedies are often not very much of either. The romances are often superficial and paper-thin, and the comedy is as likely to produce a groan as a chuckle. "Moonstruck" benefits from a sparkling Oscar-winning screenplay by John Patrick Shanley. It is both romantic, with vivid lusty characters, and it is funny, with lines that could have been written by Quentin Tarantino on a good day, and I mean that in a good way.
Gardenia is having an affair with a younger woman, played by Anita Gillette, and their cuddly moments aren't lovey-dovey, but about how masterful Gardenia the plumber is at talking clients into using copper piping. "I only use copper pipes. Sure, it costs more. It costs more because it SAVES more!" Rose knows Cosmo is having the affair, and you know it bothers her. She asks Johnny why men have affairs. "Because they fear death," Johnny replies, and Rose seizes the answer as if heaven sent. "That's IT!" Rose catches Cosmo sneaking in later and rather than having a bawling hissy-fit or smacking him, she tells him "I just want you to know that no matter what you do, you're still gonna die! Just like everyone else!"
Side characters make up much of the charm and beauty of this excellent film. Julie Bovasso and Louis Guss play Loretta's aunt and uncle, and although they look past their sexual prime, they still share glances and tender touches that let you know the embers are not cold yet. John Mahoney has a pitiful, funny, sad but wise part as a college professor who specializes in seducing young college girls with his academic wisdom, but winds up getting drinks tossed in his face at the restaurant where Johnny proposes to Loretta.
On one of the nights when Rose knows Cosmo is out having his affair, Rose goes to the restaurant alone and meets the professor as he dries off the latest drink-in-the-face. This meeting could have gone many different ways, but it goes in a way that allows both characters to come away without losing their dignity in the eyes of the audience. It is a wise movie to accomplish this.
The climactic scene occurs around the Castorini breakfast table when Johnny finally returns from the Italian mother's deathbed. (One of the funny running jokes is that the dying mother "recovers" when Johnny arrives, but enters death throes every time Johnny makes plans to return to New York.) The emotional investment you've made in all the characters pays rich dividends in this final scene. You get to laugh, and be thrilled, and although the plot seems as realistic as a Puccini libretto, it feels like a slice of life in little Italy. [MF] This is a Full Screen Presentation (1.33:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary Track featuring director Norman Jewison, Cher and writer John Patrick Shanley
Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family
“Music of Moonstruck"