★★★ / ★★★★
Loretta (Cher) was married for two years until her husband passed away. Since then, she came to believe that she was unlucky and had stayed away from potential bachelors. But when Johnny (Danny Aiello) suddenly proposed to her in a restaurant, she was intent on doing everything the traditional way, for instance, the man must kneel before she could accept his proposal, hoping that her luck would turn around. She accepted but they couldn’t get married just yet because Johnny had to go to Sicily to visit his terminally sick mother. Meanwhile, Johnny asked Loretta to contact his brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage), and invite him to their wedding. The problem was Ronny and Loretta became very attracted to one another and the two felt the need to keep it a secret. Written by John Patrick Shanley and directed by Norman Jewison, “Moonstruck” was an intelligent romantic comedy about Italian-American characters and what love and being in love meant to them. The scenes were relatively simple but the underlying emotions were complex. Take the dinner scene between Loretta’s mother (Olympia Dukakis) and a professor (John Mahoney) who dated his students. Despite their age difference, I expected them to get involved emotionally. However, instead of taking the easy route, the picture allowed the two characters to speak about their lives. By taking the time to allow the characters to interact in a meaningful way instead of resulting to cheap and easy gags, we considered questions that we otherwise wouldn’t have by just looking at them. Loretta’s mother became involved in her own questions about what it meant to be a wife versus a woman while the professor discussed his sadness because he no longer felt passionate about his work. Although they were concerned about very different things, they occupied the same space. Being in front of one another, despite being strangers, was enough for them to engage in a real and meaningful conversation. I found them relatable because at times it’s just easier to talk about very personal things to someone I don’t really know. There’s a reassuring feeling in the transient bond between us and a stranger perhaps because we feel like we’re not alone with our problems. While the story was about Loretta and Ronny in its core, I loved that the supporting characters had particular importance instead of just playthings that conveniently entered and exited the frame. The elderly characters with their wisdom, sometimes lack thereof, served to highlight the magic between what Loretta and Ronny did not yet know they had. Cher played her fiercely independent character with bravado yet she was as effective in showing Loretta’s weaknesses. Cage played Ronny with charm combined with a dangerous edge. I never would have guessed he loved the opera. Cher and Cage’s intense chemistry complemented the wonderful and crackling script. “Moonstruck” proudly wore its positive outlook on love, courtship, and marriage. I only wish it acknowledged those who will not be lucky enough to find their one.