Moonstruck celebrates its 35th anniversary at the end of 2022, however the long-beloved and award-winning film — directed by Norman Jewison — saw a renaissance a few years ago, at the start of the first COVID-19 lockdown. Articles declaring it the film “we all need right now” abounded, including effusive praise from Vulture selecting it as the first in a series of Friday Night Movies, and the New York Times Magazine requesting that Cher receive a second Oscar for her performance, decades later. In 2021 The Walrus ran a Making of Moonstruck feature praising Jewison’s directorial prowess; all of these pieces celebrate the film’s endurance as a relatable romantic comedy, and the comfort it brought viewers now stuck at home, often isolated from their families.
Filmed mostly on soundstages in Toronto, Moonstruck is an Italian-American romantic comedy about Loretta Castorini (Cher), a widow who is very close to her family and who decides to marry a man she likes, but doesn’t love, as a matter of practicality. Shortly after the decision, she meets her fiancé’s brother Ronny Cammareri (Nicolas Cage), a tormented baker who lost a hand in a bread cutting accident, and falls irrationally in love with him. The rest of the film explores the operatic passions of this couple — a woman who is trying to follow her head vs. a man who is only about following his heart — along with an incredible array of b-stories that reflect this struggle between passion and pragmatism.
Moonstruck is often called a perfect film (even Google’s top “People Also Ask” question about Moonstruck is “Why is Moonstruck such a good movie?”). It’s partially down to how much life and eccentricity exists in not only every character, but also every scene. This is due to a combination of screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (who won an Oscar for this screenplay)’s heightened-yet-naturalistic dialogue; the cast of theatre veterans (like Vincent Gardenia and Julie Bovasso) and cinematic innovators (like Cher and Cage — Cher legendarily threatened to quit the film when the studio didn’t want to take a chance on 23-year-old Cage for the role); and Norman Jewison (and editor Lou Lombardo)’s economy of scene that created the perfect storm of a film, where every moment counts.
Miraculously with Moonstruck, Jewison created an accessible, romantic comedy structured like an opera. In the DVD commentary, the director explains that each character in the film has their own arias (a solo scene or moment) that lead to a joint crescendo at the end. The reason this film has comforted people during tough times, like the pandemic, is because it spends a lot of time in kitchens, dining rooms and even cozy restaurants that feel familiar, maybe nostalgic, and, just, nice. It’s larger than life, but also celebrates the ordinary, comfy parts of existence.