Magic Realism is a genre that takes ordinary people in ordinary settings and weaves magic into their lives. The result is fantasy grounded in the details of everyday life. When it is done well, this kind of fantasy makes memorable movies.
Moonstruck, starring Cher and Nicolas Cage at the height of their fame, is magic realism at its best. Made in 1987, it stands the test of time as an enduring classic, as enchanting as it was when it was first released. Moonstruck has everything – romance, good looking stars, emotion, and of course, that touch of magic that comes with the full moon.
It garnered Oscars for Best and Supporting Actress, and for the acerbic, sparkling script, which were all well deserved. Director Norman Jewison assembled a wonderful cast for this fairy tale and brought in Englishman David Watkins as cinematographer, whose perspective on Brooklyn was fresh and gave it the look of a mundane place become suddenly magical.
Cher played Loretta Castorini, a bookkeeper who feels her best days are over, her one shot at true love was jinxed and she may as well settle for the best offer. That comes from Johnny Cammerari (Danny Aielo) whose mother in Italy doesn’t take the news too well. Their romance doesn’t exactly set the world, or either of them, on fire, but Loretta is determined that the courtship and marriage will proceed according to tradition.
But something is in the air – a blinding full moon rises over Brooklyn, and suddenly the ordered lives of the two families are completely disrupted. Loretta’s mother, Rose, discovers that her husband is having an affair, and Loretta herself runs headlong into the irresistible force that is Johnny’s brother Ronny, a passionate bread maker who lost his hand and blames Johnny for it.
It’s all very over the top, with much hand waving and passionate declarations, but it’s delightful. Olympia Dukakis shines as Rose, her wit undimmed as she surveys the wreckage of her family life and her marriage piling up around her. Hearing that Loretta isn’t sure if she really loves Johnny, Rose says, “good – when you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.”
But Loretta and Ronny find it impossible to keep apart and their passionate encounter turns Brooklyn in to a wonderland of beautiful gowns, soaring opera and dreamlike enchantment. Loretta’s transformation from a dowdy hen into a magnificent swan is truly spectacular.
It’s hard to imagine anyone but Cher in the role – but surprisingly it was offered first to Sally Field, at that time the bigger star. She is paired perfectly with Cage. They are such a striking couple that it seems natural for magic to gather when they come together.
While it isn’t fantasy in the sense of having the characters step into Narnia, or Middle Earth, it is the kind of fantasy that reminds us that we don’t need to go searching for other worlds. Magic can happen right here, in our own world, if we let it.
I bought this DVD with my own funds.
Moonstruck (Deluxe Edition)