The year was 1987. It was a tumultuous time…A breathless population tried to come to terms with the loss of Shelly Long from Cheers while simultaneously trying to choose sides in the great “Debbie Gibson or Tiffany?” debate. Fortunately Spuds Mackenzie and the announcement of Euro Disney were there to quell the public’s fears (not to mention the arrival of Prozac).
Side note: there was also the premiere of a little upstart cartoon series called The Simpsons which created an industry of people quoting and borrowing humourous ideas from it – something which continues today unabated.
In the movie houses, adultery was on the minds of the American film-goer as two of the year’s biggest releases used it as a central theme. Both Fatal Attraction and Moonstruck had characters cheating on their spouses (and almost-spouses) with varying degrees of consequences – none of which appeared to be lasting. Through different approaches and styles (one a sharply written comedy/drama, the other a consistently paced thriller), they each seem to end up at the same conclusion: infidelities certainly can’t be swept away, but don’t worry since you’ll be forgiven. Since Moonstruck’s main arc really deals with two suffocating people who stumble into each other (and subsequently allow each other to blossom), that’s likely not the fairest assessment of the film. But I’ll get to that later.
The story opens on Loretta (played by Cher), a tax accountant who seems to have the market cornered on frumpy. She’s unsure about the marriage proposal she’s just received from Johnny (Danny Aiello) because she’s had bad luck before – in fact, very bad luck since her previous husband was killed by a bus. Now she insists that everything be done just right including the actual proposal (she even makes Johnny do it all over again by getting down formally on one knee in the restaurant). When he tells her he has to fly to Italy for his dying mother, her biggest concern seems to be that they set an official date for the wedding. She doesn’t actually want or need him to help, but just agree to the date since all he’ll have to do is show up. It’s quickly established that Loretta isn’t exactly passionately in love with Johnny and even tells her mother (played in Oscar-winning form by Olympia Dukakis) that she doesn’t love him. Her Mom’s response of “Good, when you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can” sets up the issues she has with her own husband (Vincent Gardenia in a possibly too spot-on casting choice). But back to Loretta for the moment…