Film Reviews

BLUE MOON

By • Nov 3rd, 2000 •

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Writer/Director John Gallagher (The Deli) has taken a poignant, charming and fantastical idea and coupled it to the talents of two outstanding actors, Ben Gazzara and Rita Moreno, as a long-married pair whose relationship has hit bottom and desperately needs a major overhaul.

So, to try to recapture their fading romance, they take a long weekend trip to their secluded cabin in the woods (with glorious scenic shots of New York’s Sterling Forest as a stand-in for the Catskills). Unfortunately, Maggie would much prefer Paris to the Borscht Belt.

Happy campers they’re no–they’ve forgotten what they once were to each other. It’s almost a no-win situation until she looks out the window and is reminded of an old legend: “You can’t deny a lover’s wishes if the moon is blue.”

Well, the moon is blue…and thereby lies the impetus for this tale.

Enter Mac and Peggy, unexpected intruders to the love nest. They’re a young couple on the verge of getting engaged, but their chronic bickering leaves a big doubt they ever will. (Mac, with a ring hidden in his pocket, can’t quite make up his mind to propose.) Once the confusion is resolved–that No! They’re not burglars; probably a mix-up with the rental agent–the unhappy quartet find they have much in common. Maybe too much, as they recognize mutual failings in their attitudes toward love, life and each other. And throughout the course of a single night, they painfully re-examine how and where they’ve gone wrong. These are magical moments.

Unfortunately, there aren’t enough of them. Which is a pity. Despite stellar performances from the award-winning Gazzara and Moreno, the film’s potential is only intermittently realized.

The good news: incisive interludes via flashbacks of their early courting days are often heartfelt and thought provoking.

The bad news: though it was the director’s intent to cajole audiences to “stop and smell the roses,” much of the action is hindered by the heavy-handed depiction of Alanna Ubach and Brian Vincent as the younger pair. Like apples and oranges, they’re so very different, it’s hard to figure how they hooked up in the first place. The gentle working class Mac, who wouldn’t know the difference between a canape and a can of petit pois, seems no match for the thoroughly unlikable Peggy, daughter of “the Ambassador” who was reared on champagne and caviar. She’s such an obnoxious, self-centered twit–she easily could be one of Cinderella’s wicked stepsisters– it’s inconceivable anyone but a masochist would fall for her. Love couldn’t be that blind. Nevertheless, love it is. And, as in all feel-good fables, that’s how you’ll end up.

Note: Gallagher directed and produced five other films in between the eight years it took to get Blue Moon made, with Gazzara attached to his role for five of them. And Moreno, who goes back a long time with her former Actors Studio classmate, was originally slated to play a cameo as mother of the young FrankÑwhose character was named after Frank Capra.

If only -From Cramer’s “Film Finder”- for other films with a similar fabulist feeling, and many playing tricks with time and perception, some highly recommended ones from cinema’s past that are worth the detour and all available on video: The Ghost Goes West (1936); The Canterville Ghost (1944); The Enchanted Cottage (1945); It’s a Wonderful Life (1946); The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947); Portrait of Jennie (1949); The Time Machine (1960); Splash (1984); Back to the Future (1985); Peggy Sue Got Married (1986); Star Trek: The Voyage Home (1986); Ghost (1990); Prelude to a Kiss (1992); Groundhog Day (1993). Unfortunately, Repeat Performance (1946), a fantasticalÑand excellent drama, starring Louis Hayward, Joan Leslie and a superb Richard Basehart (in his film debut) is not on tape. It should be. (It occasionally airs on New Year’s Eve. Try to catch it.)

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