Greetings,readers! This week I finish my month-long salute to my favorite on-screen couples. I’ve saved one of the best for last: Loretta And Ronny from Moonstruck. Remember a few years back when the big hit was My Big Fat Greek Wedding? Moonstruck was one of the original culture clash romantic comedies. And it’s one of the best romantic comedies ever made.
In the film, widowed bookkeeper Loretta Castorini (Cher) lives. First, Loretta agrees to marry a man she does not love, Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), simply because he knows how to propose properly. Before the wedding can take place, Cammareri must visit his dying mother in Sicily. In his absence, Loretta is supposed to try to patch up the differences between Johnny and his brother, bakery operator Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage). Having never forgiven Johnny for indirectly causing the accident that crippled him, Ronny flies into a rage whenever his brother’s name is mentioned. He does, however, fall for Loretta like a ton of bricks. After a torrid affair, Loretta tries to avoid Ronny out of respect to Johnny, but he’s just too fascinating to resist. Meanwhile, Loretta’s father (Vincent Gardenia) is fooling around with his mistress Mona (Anita Gillette), while Loretta’s mother (Olympia Dukakis) is wooed by a college professor (John Mahoney). These brief flings are forgiven and forgotten, but there’s still the delicate situation of Loretta being in love with her future brother-in-law.
The whole film is full of rich,wonderful characters,especially Loretta’s parents. Olympia Dukakis richly-deserved the Oscar she won. The screenplay by John Patrick Shanley is one of the best I have ever seen. Loretta comes from a large,crazy Italian family. But this film is for anyone who’s ever had a crazy family,regardless of their nationality.
Loretta and Ronny are a great couple not just because of the unorthodox way they come together,but because of the fascinating way their relationship grows and the reaction everyone around them has to their being together. The first meeting where Loretta goes to meet Ronny to ask him to come to the wedding that ends with them sleeping together is handled with just the right tone. It doesn’t feel forced at all. The chemistry between the characters feels genuine from the word go. The next morning,Loretta says what happened was a mistake. This is where we get probably the most quoted line from the movie,”snap out of it!”
Moonstruck is like a comic opera. That’s appropriate given that it centers on an Italian family. Let me give you an example of the great writing in this film. Loretta and Ronny go to the opera. On the way out of the opera house,they confront their feelings for each other.
Ronny Cammareri: Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is, and I didn’t know this either, but love don’t make things nice – it ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We aren’t here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect. The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us! We are here to ruin ourselves and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and *die*. The storybooks are *bullshit*. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and *get* in my bed!
Then there’s also this great exchange:
Ronny Cammareri: You’re gonna marry my brother? Why you wanna sell your life short? Playing it safe is just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you could do. You waited for the right man the first time, why didn’t you wait for the right man again?
Loretta Castorini: He didn’t come!
Ronny Cammareri: I’m here!
Loretta Castorini: You’re late!
Moonstruck works because Loretta and Ronny are such likable,hopeless romantics. They’ve both been burned in the past in the relationship department. The two of them work believably through the ghosts of their past and come together in a way that’s sweet and gives the rest of us hope that that special someone might be out there.
As I mentioned before,Loretta and Ronny are surrounded by great characters. The best are Loretta’s parents. Olympia Dukakis,who plays her mom,is sassy and wise. She has some of the best lines in the whole movie. And her relationship with Vincent Gardenia is yet another reason to love this film. They stray from each other,but come back together in a way that isn’t corny,but instead is heartfelt. When Dukakis finds out Gardenia is cheating on her and thinks it’s because men do that to feel younger they have this exchange:
Rose: I just want you to know no matter what you do, you’re gonna die, just like everybody else.
Cosmo Castorini: Thank you, Rose.
I could devote a whole blog post to this screenplay alone. That’s a topic for another day. Back to Loretta and Ronny. Cher and Nicholas Cage have never been better than they are here. They go through the ups and downs of being a couple in a way the audience can relate to. Sometimes it takes people a while to realize that the person they’re destined to be with is where they least expect it. That was a big reason why When Harry Met Sally…worked also.
Moonstruck was directed by Norman Jewison,whose credits include Fiddler On The Roof,In the Heat of the Night,and the underrated romantic comedy Only You. Screenwriter John Patrick Shanley would go on to write and direct Joe vs. the Volcano,which is finally catching on via word of mouth. It’s hard to imagine a film with Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan being underrated,but it is. Moonstruck is a delight from beginning to end. We root for Loretta and Ronny to get together because we connect with them. We can also relate to the crazy but lovable family around them. This is a classic that lives up to the hype.
That’s it for my favorite romantic couples! Join me next month when my spotlight will be on film composers.