Thursday, March 21, 2024

TCM's Norman Jewison tribute

Director Norman Jewison died in January, and with 31 Days of Oscar beginning not long after Jewison's death, TCM didn't have a whole lot of time to plan a programming salute to him before the Oscar programming. So they had to delay things until later in March. That programming salute is tonight, March 21, and includes five of Jewison's films:

8:00 PM The Thomas Crown Affair
10:00 PM In the Heat of the Night
Midnight Moonstruck
2:00 AM Fiddler on the Roof
5:15 AM The Cincinnati Kid

Unlike yesterday with Ryan O'Neal, I had one of the movies in the programming salute on my DVR and not having done a review on it before. Moonstruck aired during 31 Days of Oscar, so I recorded it then, and with the Jewison salute coming up, I decided I'd watch it now so that I could do the review in conjunction with the upcoming airing.

Granted, Moonstruck is a famous enough movie that most people probably know the basic plot. Cher stars as Loretta Castorini, a bookkeeper who still lives with her family, parents Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia) and Rose (Olympia Dukakis), and Cosmo's very elderly widowed father (Feodor Chaliapin). Although, to be fair, Loretta lives with them in part because she's a widow, having married a bit later than the women in her part of the world -- Brooklyn's Italian-American community -- do and then having tragically lost her husband in an accident.

Loretta goes out to dinner with her kinda-sorta boyfriend, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). He's a decent human being and the two like each other, although Loretta isn't quite certain how much love there is. Not that she's overly worried. She married the first time for love, and look where that got her. So she'd consider marrying a second time for security, and indeed, gets Johnny to propose to her.

But there's a bit of a catch. Johnny's beloved mother lives in the old country, and word has reached Johnny that she's on her death bed. So he needs to go back to Sicily as soon as possible to see Ma before she dies. That should only be a couple of weeks maximum, and when Johnny returns, they can have the church wedding straight away.

Johnny has other difficulties. He's got a brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage) to whom he hasn't spoken in years. This would be a good time to make amends, bury the hatchet, what have you. So while Johnny is off in Italy, would Loretta be so good as to call on Ronny and get him to come to the wedding? Ronny works at a bakery, so Loretta goes there to try to find Ronny and speak to him.

She quickly learns why Ronny hasn't spoken to his brother in five years. Ronny was engaged, but one day when Johnny came to the bakery Ronny paid more attention to him than to his work. A work accident caused him to lose his hand, and then his fiancée, so Ronny blames Johnny for both. He's bitter, and hasn't been with a woman since. This gives him a bizarre idea: would Loretta spend just one night with him at the opera, Cinderella-style?

Of course, Ronny and Loretta wind up falling in love. And it's not the only case of infidelity in the story, as there are several other subplots involving love. But what will Johnny do when he gets back from Italy?

Moonstruck is a wonderful little romantic comedy, in part because it feels to me like it has a near universal appeal. Yeah, it's set in a fairly specific community, but after all it has to be set somewhere. In fact, it feels like it could have been set anywhere, and that the situations could happen to almost anybody. Indeed, one of the subplots involves a decidedly non-Italian character, the college professor Perry (John Mahoney who was so much more than just Kelsey Grammer's TV father on Frasier) who takes his female students to the same Italian restaurant the main characters go to, only to get a glass of water thrown on him.

Not only is the script excellent, the cast all give tremendous performances. Cher and Olympia Dukakis both won Oscars, but everybody else is just as good too. Moonstruck is one of those movies that is not to be missed.

1 comment:

Tom said...

Yes, I agree with Moonstruck and feel this movie still holds up well and is still relatable for a person who is single and in their 30s or even 40s who lives with their parents with more traditional values. I love the scene with the father at work talking about plumbing and pipes. Usually in a rom-com, an extra scene like that wouldn't be written (or it would be cut), but I like how it is left in and gives the character more depth and for us as a view to care about him. Ever actor is so believable in it.