It is interesting to look back at a movie like this now. Moonstruck is a multiple Academy Award winner and regarded as a classic romantic comedy. Nowadays, many seem to feel that the film is overrated and features two people that many seem to scoff at – Cher and Nicolas Cage (for the record, I would defend at least one of these people). Having never actually seen Moonstruck until now, I can attest to it being a fine film, understanding what made it such a success upon its release, but I do not think I will look at it as much beyond being a well acted, but typically structured romantic comedy. Still, the film does have a number of winning aspects.
Cher stars as Loretta, a widowed bookkeeper, in her late 30s, living in Brooklyn, with her Italian family. Loretta has been seeing a nice enough man, Johnny (Danny Aiello), who suddenly proposes marriage to her. Loretta is skeptical about this, as she believes her last marriage was cursed. She also does not love Johnny, but finds him to be a nice enough fellow, so she agrees to the engagement. It is the safe and sure choice for her at this point.
Due to an ill mother, Johnny is forced to head to Italy to be with her, but asks Loretta if she can speak of the engagement news to his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage). Ronny is very much the opposite of mild mannered Johnny. Ronny works at a bakery, despite having one crippled hand (which he blames Johnny for) and he is also quite moody, but very passionate about various things in life. This leads to quite the romantic complication for Loretta, as she and Ronny seem to instantly fall for each other after their initial meeting and subsequent sparring of sorts. Now Loretta must deal with the sudden blossoming of her second chance at love.
What I enjoyed most out of this film were the actors. Cher does a very good job as Loretta, creating a fully fleshed out character, who speaks her mind, is quite funny at times, and does a great job at revealing a women who would be challenged by the situation she is in. I also quite like Nic Cage (although I tend to always like wild man Cage). It is interesting to note that Cage did this film and Raising Arizona in the same year, but had enough range to make two very different characters. Here he has the task of being a very tortured soul, who happens to appreciate the opera, and I found that to be quite fun and interesting.
Also starring in this film is Olympia Dukakis (who won an Oscar for her role here, along with Cher) and Vincent Gardenia as Loretta’s parents, Rose and Cosmo. This is a film that features the theme of family very heavily, so it was another solid aspect for the film to have casted two very good supporting actors for the parents. Dukakis, in particular, gets many great lines here and also has a scene with John Mahoney during the film, which stands as an interesting side story.
The film was written by playwright John Patrick Shanley, who based a lot of this material on what he has learned about the lives of married Italian families and went on to construct a screenplay that serves as a comedic opera of sorts. While some of the dialogue does feel very “written” at points, it is a benefit to the film that the actors are all very good together. Director Norman Jewison does a fine job with the assemblage and tone of the film, as the characters all come off as fairly likable. This is a movie that is very much about appreciating the various members of the cast, without having to resort to pushing forward an antagonist to create drama.
What really bothers me though, is how thin the film is. As I have stated, the film is fairly typical in how it handles its story. What bothers me more is the fact that I recently watched Broadcast News, which came out in the same year as this film and was up against it at the Oscars. Broadcast News is easily the superior film, as that film had an amazing script that went against many of the tropes involving a romantic comedy, let alone all of the other aspects of that film, which made it so much more interesting. It is my strong positive reaction to that film that literally made me like this film less, upon thinking about them being up against each other in the same year.
So overall, I think this film is okay. I like the performances a lot, despite a story that is fairly simple. The film is built around the notion of the importance of family and bonding, along with good Italian cooking. Despite how it may at many times feel very deliberate in its dialogue, the character interaction and dynamic between Loretta and Ronny in particular was certainly fun to watch. I may not regard this as the classic it is seen as, but I can say it’s enjoyable, like a big pizza pie.
The 1080p transfer of this film is decent. It looks good because this is a film put on a Blu-ray disc, so that is basically expected, but nothing that really stands out here. There is some grain in places, which makes sense given the age of the film and the fact that I doubt there was painstaking work done to make this film look absolutely wonderful. Still, for a film that does not necessarily beg to be noted for its stunning visuals, this is certainly the best current way to look at Moonstruck from one’s home.
Again, the film doesn’t beg to be scrutinized so much, because there is not a lot to a romantic comedy such as this that would really require a detailed analysis of its sound quality. However, I can say that this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix for the film is by no means perfect. The score at times felt intrusive against the dialogue. The balancing on the audio for this film was not greatly handled, which is distracting. I hate having to adjust the volume during different scenes. The disc also includes Spanish and French audio tracks and subtitle tracks.
While not a lot of material to show off for this film, it does have a decent collection of extras to peak into. However, the lack of much participation (beyond the commentary) on the part of Cher and Nicolas Cage certainly hurts this section a bit. Is Cher really that busy these days for a retrospective of the film she won an Oscar for? Still, there a few good things here.
The Extras Include:
-Audio Commentary Featuring Cher, Director Norman Jewison and Writer John Patrick Shanley. From what I listened to, it is a fairly scene specific track, but not the most exciting one. It would probably be easier to skip to the next feature.
-Moonstruck: At the Heart of an Italian Family Documentary. Clocking in at about 25 minutes, this is a good enough featurette that features interviews with the cast and crew both during and in retrospect to the production. A nice compliment to the film.
-Music of Moonstruck Featurette. A short but sweet little extra, focusing on the music in the film, with composer Dick Hyman and director Norman Jewison.
-Pastas to Pastries: The Art of Fine Italian Food. A look at some of the Italian restaurants within the area that the film is set.
I was happy enough to have finally watched this film. I am always up for a little Nic Cage and it certainly helps that Cher, along with the rest of the cast all turn in very good performances. While it may not be to me the romantic comedy classic that it is to many others, I can still see where the appreciation comes from. As far as the disc goes, fans of this film should be willing to either purchase this version or upgrade from the DVD. Short of the 30th anniversary of this film in 2017, I think this is the best version one will be able to get. And that’s amore.