This is a blog which primarily gives some attention to movies that I find were overlooked (for whatever reason) or are simply underrated. I also comment on other, mainly movie-related issues as well. I welcome any suggestions for films to be added to this distinguished list.

One word of warning: The films listed below contain spoilers, so caution during reading is required.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Shoot the Moon (1982)

"Do I look like a hooker?"
"No, you look beautiful. You don't look anything like a hooker."
"See, I don't look anything like a hooker. What's a hooker?"
-Molly and Faith Dunlap.

Alan Parker was on a roll going into the 1980s with the back-to-back successes of Midnight Express (1978) and Fame (1980). Shoot the Moon was his followup project, but it didn't get as much attention, although Albert Finney and Diane Keaton both won deserved Golden Globe nominations for their performances.
George Dunlap (Finney) is a writer who, as the film opens, has just won a prestigeous writing award for his recent novel. However, the bliss he shares with his wife Faith (Keaton) and their daughters Sherry (Dana Hill), Jill (Viveka Davis), Marianne (Tracey Gold), and Molly (Tina Yothers) is simply a front for the breakup of his marriage, which occurs barely a day after George's win with him leaving their home.
Sherry is the first of the children to realize that her father has a mistress, single mother Sandy (Karen Allen). Once he leaves Faith, Sherry is the only one of the four girls who wants nothing more to do with her father. When he picks them up to take them to school, she takes the bus instead without even greeting him. She is also the only one who is not seen with Sandy, even though her sisters enjoy her company. Sherry also helps out Faith as much as she can, even going so far as to cook breakfast for all of them.
As the weeks pass, Faith eventually meets Frank (Peter Weller), a carpenter who arrives to remind her of the work order for building a tennis court which she made over a year earlier. The separation, however, has left Faith without sufficient money to pay for such a project, which prompts Frank to do it for her out of sympathy. This sympathy eventually leads to a romance between the two.
It is here where the dramatic fireworks of the film begin. George becomes jealous once he sees that Faith is attached to someone else. He also becomes more and more frustrated with Sherry's attitude toward him. This reaches the point where he arrives at his former home and demands she accept a birthday present (a typewriter). When Sherry still refuses, he forces himself into her room and spanks her.
Ironically, Sherry's view of George begins to change when, following the funeral of Faith's father (George Murdock), she catches her parents making love in a hotel room. Shortly afterward, she lashes out at Faith and Frank (even though she liked him fine before) and runs to Sandy's home to talk with her father. They basically reconcile on the dock near Sandy's beach home, where Sherry accepts her birthday gift.
However, this goodwill is shattered when George returns Sherry to her mother and proceeds to wreck the newly built tennis court with his car, scaring the hell out of the guests there in the process (I doubt it's a coincidence that the classic Rolling Stones song "Play With Fire" is playing in the background).
Frank then stops George by beating him up (understandable, but when looked at in another way-Robocop beating up Daddy Warbucks-this fight could not be more unfair). The final scene of the film is of George being comforted from his beating by all four of his girls and reaching a hand toward Faith, who's hovering over him.
What makes this film good is the jealous obsession George and Faith have on each other even though they are broken up, and even after they become involved with other people. The confrontations between the two are just as intense as Keaton's with Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II(1974). George clearly loves Sandy but can't easily let go of everything he's established with Faith. Faith, likewise, was the one who was hurt in the beginning, so she obviously misses George. Prior to their hotel love-making, they have an argument at a restaurant, which they both clearly enjoy.
Perhaps the scene stealer is Hill, whose great work as Sherry perfectly captures the anger and confusion of a child old enough to understand the concept of divorce and the impact divorce has on a family. Tragically, Hill died in 1996 at age 32 from a stroke brought on by complications from diabetes. Despite impressive voice over credits, her other noteworthy film role (sadly or not) was as Chevy Chase's daughter in National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985).
My guess-and this is only a guess-as to why this didn't make the same impression as Parker's two previous films is that people were more preoccupied with another great film from 1982 which focused (partially) on divorce-E.T.-The Extra-Terrestrial. That film was unique in that it was a coming of age story which just happened to have a science fiction angle to it. When you also take into account that E.T. was just one of many great science fiction films to be released in 1982(others, for the record, include Blade Runner, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, The Dark Crystal, The Secret of NIMH, Poltergeist, Tron, and The Thing), maybe it was inevitable that a low-budget, mundane gem as this just got lost in the shuffle.

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