Tuesday, May 10, 2011

CHER as Loretta Castorini in MOONSTRUCK


Brilliant in SILKWOOD, which will probably make my top 100 favs – that last moment just kills me. MASK had some great moments, especially when she finds out her son has passed away, she literally comes undone, wrecking her Sunland Valley home and then sticking pins in his beloved Europe poster telling him he can ‘now go wherever he wants'.  I even thought she was really good in SUSPECT. I know – Cher as a lawyer – but I liked it. As for her signature work, I’d have to agree with the OSCAR voters, she is exceptional in John Patrick Shanley and Norman Jewison’s MOONSTRUCK.  A fantastic ensemble. Like WORKING GIRL, it’s a big 'Cinderella' romantic comedy set in the Italian American Brooklyn and NY areas but the film also deals with some serious heartaches, male shortcomings and female superstitions. It’s a great film about elusive things that hold real power under the surface of human behavior, not just for Italian Americans: old grudges, vendettas, deep wounds, superstitions, and loneliness. Blame it on the moon. Love, romance and its desire for either, too, has a strange power over us, affecting our judgment, and making people take risks rather than playing it safe. Centered on the Castorini family, 'Moonstruck' is about all these things and so much more, like good food, family tradition, money, growing old together and that age-old question of why men chase after younger women… This comedy is very much about the crazy things we do when the moon is out and full.
What is most remarkable about this performance from Cher is her listening and her reactions: her stillness. When someone’s talking, this character can’t hide her true feelings, whether it’s sarcastic, lust filled, or frustrated to rage…her KNOWING deadpan looks are extraordinary and very funny. The comedy comes from her history of men going the wrong way, and being left in the wake of their mistakes - accidents "he got hit by a bus". It’s not just because we feel we know Cher that it works – it works because she’s a really good actress. She takes us to places where we have great fear in acknowledging in our own lives. It’s a dynamite performance.

A scene I play for my acting class on how ‘mimic and mock repetition’ can work - the first scene with Cher and Vincent Gradenia, where Cher tells her father she’s going to get married and she needs him to give her away in a church, instead of City Hall , so she doesn’t have ‘bad luck’. The non-verbal looks, the rhythm, how they match vocal tone / volume, physical gesturing, even the eyeballs – it’s brilliant and shows early on in the film that Cher is gifted comedian. Another tiny moment I love right off the bat is when the owner of the flower shop hands her a flower. The way her face lets go for a moment and you honestly feel how touched and appreciative she is..."Thank you Carmine". She waits the perfect amount of time before saying her line. That's good acting. Taking that brief moment. Having the confidence that she could deliver true feeling without speaking - glorious.

Down the smallest of roles – the grandfather and the store owners – are perfectly cast. Real looking people that have talent that add wonderfully to the films authenticity.

John Patrick Shanley's witty and insightful script puts an octet of New Yorkers under a lunar spell one romantic night. There’s a beautiful ethereal quality to MOONSTRUCK – a quality that is under the entire – the shots of the moon, the moon’s reflection through the lace curtains, and there’s magic behind all the actors performances. Even Nic Cage – who for some in this film was like slightly over-cooked pasta. I think it’s amongst his best work. Right up there with ‘Leaving Las Vegas’ and ‘Adaptation’. His odd-ball choices and largeness were perfect for this unusual oddball character with a wooden hand and smoldering primitive sex appeal.

CHER won the OSCAR that year against very though competition:

Holly Hunter in BROADCAST NEWS, Meryl Streep in IRONWEED, Sally Kirkland in ANNA, Glenn Close in FATAL ATTRACTION.

It's hard to imagine another actress playing the lovelorn, guilt-stricken Loretta with such soulful panache. And who else could have pulled off such gigantic hair? The transformation wasn’t the unbelievable part – we know Cher knows how to get dolled up, but it’s the beginning, with the greys, when life’s beaten her down and she’d settled into neighborhood that was so amazing. Big Love to Cher – historic powerhouse performances that year… I think the Academy got it right with their selection. Somehow, even though she’s already had a giant career, Cher is always the underdog. That’s a gift. It’s rare when a female actor wins the OSCAR that the crowd leaps to their feet.  They did this year ( maybe thx to Meryl, always a class act) – way to go CHER!

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