A SCENIC VIEW

Seduced by the moon

Nicolas Cage and Cher in "Moonstruck"

Nicolas Cage and Cher in "Moonstruck"

Like anything else, I believe romance is in the eye of the beholder, but there has to be truth behind it, and it helps when there is an element of the ridiculous at work – especially in films. In this view of a scene, I’m describing one of the great romantic scenes of cinema – ranking up there with scenes I’ll eventually describe from “The Philadelphia Story” (1940) and “Chasing Amy” (1997) among others.

In 1987, the remarkable Norman Jewison directed a little gem of a romantic comedy – what a romantic comedy should be – in “Moonstruck.” The movie is an ode to passion depicted as a charming slice of life in two Italian families living in Brooklyn. And it's full of impressive performances from all the principal players. I could go on and on about the wonders of "Moonstruck," but here I'm confining my comments to one of the many terrific scenes. Cher, who won a best actress Oscar for her performance, stars as Loretta Castorini, a widowed accountant recently engaged to the forthright, uptight Johnny Cammereri, played to perfection by Danny Aiello. Johnny has to fly to Italy to be with his dying mother (A fantastic line from Loretta about her mother-in-law-to-be: “She’s dying, but I can still hear her big mouth.”). Johnny asks Loretta to invite his brother, Ronny (Nicholas Cage when he was a marvel), to the wedding. Johnny can’t invite him because there’s “bad blood” between the brothers, the origins of which are hilariously revealed when Loretta goes to see Ronny to invite him to the wedding.

"Everything seems like nothing to me now because I want you in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell. I don't care if you burn in hell. The past and the future is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing. I see they ain't here."
- Ronny Cammereri (Nicholas Cage), Moonstruck

[SPOILER ALERT] Loretta and Ronny end up falling for each other, but Loretta is extremely conflicted about it. As she acknowledges, her nature draws her to Ronny, but she’s already committed to Johnny. She slips into bed with Ronny, which she very practically and promptly tries to keep from going further. But Ronny knows that they’re only fighting the inevitable. In an attempt to extend their time together, he invites her to his favorite thing (besides her): the opera. She agrees, but insists that it will be their farewell outing. But even though it’s to be their last hurrah, she sees no reason not to look like a movie star when she shows up at the Metropolitan Opera House. She gets an overdue makeover, and shows up at the Met looking fabulous. But she’s quick to reiterate to Ronny that it’s the opera and nothing else for them.

As Ronny walks Loretta home from the opera, she’s obsessing about a shocking revelation she was faced with while they were at the opera and does not realize that he’s walking her back to his apartment. When she admonishes him for trying to break their deal, he delivers one of the most romantic speeches ever delivered on film on a cold and snowy New York night. Raging cinephiles like me will recall that the great film critic Roger Ebert extolled the virtues of this scene when he reviewed the movie all those years ago, and obviously I couldn’t agree with him more. The point: When it’s love, it’s love, and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. 

Scottish flights of fancy

Finally saw the movie "Local Hero" (1983). It's an odd, but enchanting little film in a quirky, British isle kind of way. The primary romance is between the main character, an American played by Peter Riegert, and the Scottish town his boss Burt Lancaster sends him to on business. By the end, Riegert claims to have fallen for his host's wife, but you know it's just the wistful ramblings of a drunk man enamored with a foreign way of life. Even though I knew his comments were mostly a flight of fancy, I couldn't help thinking at the end when he wouldn't tell her good-bye and took off in the company chopper: Isn't that just like a man? Claims to love you, but doesn't even say it to you. He tells someone else and then flies away. Typical.