Moonstruck (1987)

“Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancee, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident.”

– Loretta Castorini

Moonstruck does quite a successful job at pulling double duty. It is both a romantic comedy and a multilayered family drama. Never at any moment does one take a backseat to the other which makes it come across as a full bodied snapshot into one group’s lives shared together. One could also argue that it is a solid “New York City” film that makes the city feel as if it too is a crucial character.

We predominantly find ourselves following the daily events of 37 year old widow, Loretta Castorini. Played by the multi-talented Cher she is naturally imbedded with a toughness but also a yearning… A yearning for real love and new beginnings. She hails from a large multi-generational family who all have rather colorful lives of their own… Some which are innocent, and others which could threaten to cause a rift in the solidity of their lives.

An opportunity for Loretta presents itself in the marriage proposal from Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello). It isn’t exactly the most ideal execution though as Johnny has to be asked to get down on one knee and the engagement ring has to be substituted with his own pinky ring. Loretta hasn’t had the best track record when it comes to romance, so she wants it done right. This situation isn’t exactly ideal but will do in a pinch. Even Loretta’s mother Rose (Olympia Dukakis) implies that it is probably for the best that there is no love between Loretta and Johnny. Rose herself believes that it is easier that way because in her mind you’re more likely to be hurt by someone you love.

The only hitch in the plan is that the two of them can only wed once Johnny has flown out to Italy to visit his dying mother, and if Loretta can reach out to his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage). Simple enough, right?

Ronny, the elusive younger Cammareri brother, is a volatile and bombastic personality. Soothing this deep would between brothers proves to be less than easy for Loretta as Ronny has no intention of giving his brother anything… Whether it be forgiveness or a wedding RSVP. To make matters work there is a spark between the two of them, a spark Loretta wants to deny but is more fiery than anything she feels towards the bumbling Johnny. Ultimately the two end up in bed together and from there nothing will be the same as the city becomes bathed in the bright and enticing moonlight.

One can also not talk about Moonstruck without briefly touching on one of its most remembered parts… That of course being the infamous makeover scene that Cher goes through partway through the movie. Now, depending on who you are talking to a “makeover” scene in a movie can be a point of contention and often gets blown out of proportion. Moonstruck though uses this common film trope quite seamlessly and effectively. Yes, the “glow-up” does occur after Loretta’s night spent with Ronny and on the heels of the possibility of seeing him again during a night at the opera. So on this aspect it may feel that this is all for Ronny, all for the male gaze. But it is easy to tell that this is actually all for Loretta.

Prior to this change in appearance we feel that Loretta is a bit tired in her life. With many monumental events having come and gone, and in some instances left behind grief and also stagnation. When Loretta comes out of the salon it feels as if she has had a fresh breath and a clearer outlook. I like to read it as a positive affirmation on woman wanting to look good and feel good for themselves and not always due to romantic or societal reasons.

Loretta was perfectly attractive before but afterwards there is confidence there, and a glamour that comes across as attainable. It is self-care and that is very important. Obviously Cher is a multi-talented star and a dazzling look is not foreign to her. But despite this she disappears into Loretta. This sophisticated debut is not just Cher being Cher, it really is Loretta coming back into her own and getting what she truly desires from life.

Moonstruck is a full film; full of life, full of love and full of possibility.

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