Sunday, July 24, 2011

Don't Make a Scene: Moonstruck

Our "Don't Make a Scene" feature is doing a series we call "The Gospel According to...", in which a main character reveals their philosophy, and a little about themselves in the process. Hope you enjoy it.

The Gospel According to Ronny Cammareri

The Set-Up:  Romance and comedy—two great things that go great together. When you look at the state of romantic-comedy these days (if that's a concern of yours), things look a little dire. The characters populating them are self-absorbed, young, and neurotic on their own, the vagaries of love notwithstanding. You wonder why anybody would be interested in these people, much less an audience. Romantic comedies used to be about something, or situations that obstructed the path of true love—rather than the people who manage to obstruct it themselves. They were more about these things than they were about romance and/or comedy. Nowadays, you just want to yell at the screen: "Oh, grow up and get together and stop wasting my time."

This is Moonstruck, a product of Pulitzer winning writer John Patrick Shanley* and director Norman Jewison, and it is one of my favorite rom-com's.   Shanley wrote great characters and Jewison, being a man of quite good taste (he knew how to push the subject envelope while continuing to make his movies entertaining), knew when the writer was getting too windy (you can see the deletions from the script crossed out below, mostly because the characters do go on a bit and because Loretta shouldn't need permission from Ronny to leave).

What I love about Moonstruck is that the characters are multi-generational, have been around the block and have enough life-experience that they know themselves...or at least they think they do. Part of the charm of Moonstruck is seeing these people discover new truths...about themselves, about love, and about life.

And I've always loved Ronny's speech here: "We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts and love the wrong people and die!"

Yeah. That's about right.

The Story: Loretta Castorini (Cher) is caught between the Moon and New York City.  A widower for years, she's engaged to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), a nice man, a decent man. Two things have to happen before they get married—Johnny has to ask permission of his mother in Italy, and Loretta must try to coax Johnny's estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage), a baker who lost his hand in an accident and for which Ronny blames Johnny. Then, things get complicated. Loretta and Ronny end up sleeping together. Loretta knows it's wrong and is torn up about it. The tortured Ronny, though, is obsessed, incensed that Loretta would play it safe by marrying his brother. A deal is reached. Loretta will go with Ronny to the opera, and then leave her alone and never bother her again. Sounds neat and tidy. But love is never neat and tidy.

Action!


EXT. A COLD AND EMPTY MANHATTAN STREET - NIGHT

Ronny and Loretta are walking. Their breath is coming out in long plumes.

LORETTA It's really cold.
RONNY Yeah. It smells like snow.


They walk in silence for a moment, then Loretta speaks.

LORETTA My mother guessed that my father was seeing somebody and I told her she was crazy.


LORETTA She looked like a real piece of cheap goods. But who am I to talk?

Her eyes are full of tears.

RONNY What's the matter?
LORETTA How can you ask me that?
RONNY You're making me feel guilty again.
LORETTA You are guilty. I'm guilty.

RONNY Of what? Only God can point the finger, Loretta.

LORETTA Oh, yeah? I know what I know.

RONNY And what do you know?

RONNY You tell me my life? I'll tell you yours. I'm a wolf? You run to the wolf in me, that don't make you no lamb! You're gonna marry my brother?

RONNY Why you wanna sell your life short? Playing it safe is just about the most dangerous thing a woman like you could do. You waited for the right man the first time...

RONNY ...why didn't you wait for the right man again?
LORETTA He didn't come!

RONNY I'm here!

LORETTA Yeah?  Well, You're late!

RONNY We're here.

EXT. RONNY'S APARTMENT BUILDING - NIGHT

She looks. It's Ronny's building.

LORETTA This is your place.
RONNY That's right.
LORETTA This is where we're going!

RONNY Yeah.
LORETTA We had a deal!

LORETTA The deal was if I came to the Opera with you you'd leave me alone forever.

She looks for his response. He makes none.

LORETTA I went with you.

(pause, nothing)

LORETTA Now I'm gonna marry Johnny and you're gonna leave me alone.

(pause, nothing)

LORETTA Right?

(nothing)

LORETTA A person can see where they've messed up in their life, and they can change how they do things, and they can change their Luck. Maybe my nature does draw me to you, but I don't haveta go with that. I can take hold of myself and say yes to some things and no to something that's just gonna ruin everything! I can do that.

LORETTA Otherwise, what is this stupid life that God gave us for what?

(pause, nothing)

LORETTA Ronny? Are you listening to me?

RONNY Yeah.
LORETTA I'm really afraid.
RONNY Why?
LORETTA I'm afraid of who I am.
RONNY I was.
LORETTA And you're not now?

He shakes his head.

LORETTA Why not?

RONNY I don't know. Everything seems like nothing now against that I want you...

RONNY ...in my bed. I don't care if I burn in hell.

RONNY I don't care if you burn in hell. The Past and Future...

RONNY ...is a joke to me now. I see that they're nothing, I see they ain't here. The only thing that's here...

RONNY ...is you. And me. I want you to come upstairs. Now. I tried to take everything last night, like you told me, but I couldn't. I couldn't take everything in a hundred years. It's the way we are. We compound each other.
LORETTA Let me go home.  I'm going home.
RONNY No.

LORETTA Let me go home. I'm going home!
RONNY No.

LORETTA I'm freezing to death.
RONNY Come upstairs.

RONNY I don't care why you come. No, that's not what I mean. Loretta, I love you. Not like they told you love is...

RONNY ...and I didn't know this either. But love don't make things nice...

RONNY ...it ruins everything, it breaks your heart...

RONNY ...it makes things a mess. We're not here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect.

RONNY The stars are perfect.

RONNY Not us. Not us.

RONNY We are here to ruin ourselves and break our hearts...

RONNY ...and love the wrong people and die!

RONNY The storybooks are bullshit. Come upstairs with me, baby! Don't try to live your life out to somebody else's idea of sweet happiness. Don't try to live on milk and cookies when what you want is meat! Red meat just like me! It's wolves run with wolves and nothing else! You're a wolf just like me!

RONNY Come upstairs with me...

RONNY ...and get in my bed!

RONNY Come on!

RONNY Come on!

RONNY Come on!

Loretta follows Ronny into his building.




Moonstruck

Words by John Patrick Shanley

Pictures by David Watkin and Norman Jewison

Moonstruck is available on DVD from M-G-M Home Video.



3 comments:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

And the phrase which will define our generation in relation to this man: "Remember when Nic Cage was in good movies?"

I don't expressly love MOONSTRUCK, but it is lovely and though I'll always love Glenn's Alex voluminously I could never grudge Cher her Oscar win.

Yojimbo_5 said...

I'm not a fan of hers...at all. She's great in this, and nor would I. And, I think this was the first performance of cage's where I thought he might actually have some talent.

Yolanda Barker said...

That's a blast from the past. Thanks for sharing!