A WALK ON THE MOON(director: Tony Goldwyn; screenwriter: Pamela Gray; cinematographer: Anthony Richmond; editor: Dana Congdon; cast: Diane Lane (Pearl Kantrowitz), Viggo Mortensen (Walker Jerome), Liev Schreiber (Marty Kantrowitz), Anna Paquin (Alison Kantrowitz), Tovah Feldshuh (Lilian Kantrowitz), Bobby Boriello (Daniel Kantrowitz), Joseph Perrino (Ross, the lifeguard); Runtime: 105;Miramax Films; 1999)
“The acting was convincing and the story had a nice feel to it…”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
A heart rendering film capably directed by the actor now turned first-time director, Tony Goldwyn, for and about the ‘Baby Boom Generation.’ It takes place in upstate New York, where a lower-middle-class couple annually rent a bungalow for the summer in a Jewish resort and react to all the change that is in the air in the summer of ’69 for the country and for them. It was the summer of the Vietnam War protests, Neil Armstrong’s walk on the moon, and Woodstock, so the music in the background is appropriately enough from Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Grateful Dead, Richie Havens, Dylan, and Hendrix, and so on, which should bring on a case of nostalgia for those who were around during that period. There should also be some nostalgia left over for the days of bungalow colonies as family vacation spots, for those who might have experienced that sort of vacation when growing up or when raising a family.
The featured couple like many of the other couples heading for their summer oasis likes to keep time how long it takes them to get from the city by car to their Catskill Mountain lodgings, with the Red Apple being the famous rest stop on the thruway and the half-way point in their commute. Pearl Kantrowitz (Diane Lane) is the restless housewife asking her steadfast television repairman husband Marty (Liev Schreiber), “Why do we do the same thing every summer?” His unsatisfactory response to her is, “Because we do.” The eldest child, the 14-year-old Alison (Anna Paquin), seen wearing a peace medallion around her neck, is rebelling against her parents’ lack of ideology; while, her younger brother, Danny (Boriello), is dressed in a cowboy hat and is seemingly just an innocent kid. The housewife’s mother-in-law is the perceptive Lilian (Tovah Feldshuh), who is a visionary and is very close with her son, especially so, after her husband just took off and left her one day, and her son swore he would look out for her from hereon. She feels sorry that her son couldn’t fulfill his childhood dreams of being a scientist but instead works as a television repairman because that was the easiest way to support his wife, choosing his wife over his childhood dreams.
The couple met when Pearl was a teenager and Marty was a waiter in a resort hotel. The first time they made love the 17-year-old virgin became pregnant with Alison which led to their marriage, something the husband says is the best thing that has happened to him. She now feels that she can’t communicate her feelings to her husband, that life has passed her by, and that she has changed so much while her husband hasn’t. She complains to him that the most important decision that she has to do as a housewife is to choose whether to shop in the A&P or at Waldbaums. His response is that the Ring-Dings are fresher at the A&P.
The bungalow colony is a place where everyone knows everyone’s business, where the men work in the city during the week and come up for the weekend to relax. It is a place where visitors such as the knish man, is announced so that the colony will know that he is on the premises. One of the visitors to the bungalow colony is the handsome blouse man, Walker Jerome (Viggo), a free-spirited hippie type, peddling his wares from colony to colony, who bought out the regular blouse man’s truck and route. Tempted by what seems to be the greener grass on the other side of the fence, Pearl has an affair with the gentle and laid-back hippie on the night of the walk on the moon and is seen by her daughter with him while she was attending the nearby Woodstock concert. The film purposefully means to mirror the couple’s life with the changes that altered the face of the nation during thatperiod.
Pearl’s affair becomes common knowledge to the family and threatens the marriage, a marriage where the husband has done nothing wrong and is, if anything, too good. Marty goes out of his head at the thought of her with another man and will go into an uncontrollable rage feeling the one thing he was most secure about in life has been taken away from him, while Pearl wrestles with her sense of responsibility and with what she really wants to do. Finally, she decides not to ride off with Walker and live a hippie-style of life, and the super-straight Marty decides to loosen up a little and get with the new music coming into vogue.
The story allows mother and daughter to come to terms freely with who they are, as Alison has her first period and her first boyfriend and is exploring who she is just like her mother is currently doing. The conflict between mother and daughter, reflects on how this particularly volatile time in American history resulted in a sexual revolution and in a generational movement of attitude changes that forced families to face what was in the air at the time or else wide gaps developed in family relationships.
The moral question the film raises about adultery can only be resolved accordingly by the parties affected and so what happens in the film’s mild rendering to the problem seems credible at first glance, but it is put forth in a way that might not have seemed morally correct for many a viewer.
The acting was convincing and the story had a nice feel; it followed along with the historical mood the country was going through at that time. The yearnings for a new kind of freedom and to step away from the old boredom of other generations was in the air, as a counterculture was constantly being dangled in front of all types. What the film lacked, was resolution. The aim of the film was realized as a small step for a troubled woman feeling the need for passion in her life and getting it via an affair; but, there were no gigantic aims to be accomplished after Pearl takes her gigantic leap into the arms of her hippie lover. I thought that the fleeting affair Pearl had with the long-haired sculptured Adonis certainly satisfied her sexual needs, but the bigger moral question of adultery was never even attempted to be answered with any kind of satisfactory response. This left me believing that the liaison was the thing here, just like in those romantic pulp fiction books that are an easy read, with nothing more to tax your mind.
REVIEWED ON 11/12/99 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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