Nobody makes effortless romantic comedies like Moonstruck anymore. Beautifully written by John Patrick Shanley (who won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay) and wisely directed by Norman Jewison, this film is funny, heartfelt, genuine, and so perceptive of Italian culture it almost hurts. Cher was fantastic in a role that netted her a Best Actress Oscar (that hair!), Nicolas Cage was at his wild-eyed and passionate best, and the entire supporting cast just nailed every single o…pportunity that they were given, especially Olympia Dukakis (who took home the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress), Vincent Gardenia, Danny Aiello, and John Mahoney. Jewison was one of those steady and sturdy filmmakers who never seemed to get the credit he deserved, despite winning awards and almost always garnering critical acclaim; was it that he wasn’t a “Hollywood” guy that kept him off to the side a bit? He always seemed interested in tackling important social and/or political issues within the narratives of his films (he was also a prolific producer), and he was seen as a filmmaker who was able to turn the potentially inaccessible into something commercial.
Moonstruck was one of his more classically structured films, an effort that played to the conventions of its genre but one that enjoyed poking fun at the tropes. Shanley’s rich and frequently hysterical screenplay touched upon ideas of love, chance, and the importance of family, and at no time did the writing ever get overly sentimental or cloying, a trap that befalls many films of this ilk. Moonstruck opened on December 18, 1987, and immediately became a massive theatrical hit, spending 20 weeks in the top 10 of the box office, and grossing close to $100 million. And it’s remained a popular favorite for years due to the simple fact that it just flat-out works on every level. It’s romantic without being sappy, sexy without being puerile, and intelligent without being pretentious. Nothing was forced, the film was never vulgar just to be vulgar, there was a terrific sense of New York City running all throughout, while the low-key manner in which the plot unfolded should be held as an example for this variety of storytelling, which tends to get overstuffed and too complicated for its own good at times. I also hope that the people who created My Big Fat Greek Wedding are sending weekly royalty checks to Shanley and Jewison. “Snap out of it!”