Moonlighting (1982)


(director/writer: Jerzy Skolimowski; cinematographer: Tony Pierce-Roberts; editor: Barrie Vince; music: Stanley Myers/Hans Zimmer; cast: Jeremy Irons (Nowak), Eugene Lipinski (Banaszak), Jiri Stanislaw (Wolski), Eugeniusz Haczkiewicz (Kudal), David Calder (Supermarket Manager), Judy Gridley (Supermarket Supervisor), Claire Toeman (Supermarket cashier); Runtime: 97; MPAA Rating: PG; producer: Mark Shivas/Jerzy Skolimowski;Universal Studios Home Video; 1982)
“Revels in depicting workers faced with alienation and desperate conditions.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Moonlighting is set during the Christmas season in 1981 in London, and will spill over to the new year when in January martial law is applied in Poland and the Solidarity movement is banned. Expat Polish director Jerzy Skolimowski (“The Shout”/”Deep End”/”The Lightship”) writes and directs this acclaimed film. It revels in depicting workers faced with alienation and desperate conditions.

Four Polish builders,Nowak (Jeremy Irons), Banaszak (Eugene Lipinski), Wolski (Jiri Stanislaw), Kudal (Eugeniusz Haczkiewicz), are hired by the ‘boss’ to renovate his London townhouse and arrive in London to work there for a month without a work permit. They will earn a months’ wages, which is what usually takes a year to earn back home. The boss will get cheap labor, because if he hired English workers and paid them in English currency it would be much more costly. Nowak is the only one who speaks English and acts as the boss. While working, military coup takes place in Poland. In order to finish the job on time, Nowak does not tell the isolated others.

The displaced foreigners observe the Brits, feeling their hatred for foreigners, buying a TV that doesn’t work, Nowak’s bike gets stolen, and observing the locals shoplift in the supermarket. Nowak becomes the overbearing leader, treating the others like children, and reverts to stealing a bike to replace his and shoplifting in order to finance the project that ran over budget. The workers find it a frustrating experience and finally leave for Poland bearing gifts for their loved ones back home. When Nowak finally tells his co-workers the news of the military action as they head for Heathrow, there is an angry outburst.

The quirky, gripping political drama never utters a single political statement, as it becomes allegorical and finds relief in its weird bittersweet humor. Nowak turnsinto a totalitarian bully by lying in order to get his subjects to complete the work on time and the workers at the end feel betrayed by the leader, one of their own and not a Soviet, they solely relied on for support.The filmmaker gives us plenty of chances to observe both the Londoners in their daily life and the poor workers holed up in the apartment of their wealthy boss.