Monday, January 19, 2009


Seeing the movie Doubt, which was like seeing the wet, warring workings of my own brain dissected and put into conversational form on a large film screen, caused me to look into the writer and director John Patrick Shanley. I discovered that he wrote the screenplay to Moonstruck and had his directorial debut with Joe Versus the Volcano, which he also wrote. I had seen neither of these two films before I dug them up this week.

Joe Versus the Volcano is so much better than the bits of dismissive critical response that have lingered in my memory all these years. It's like a Tom Waits song directed by Terry Gilliam, all hipster magical realism beating through a plumply romantic, surreal heart.

Moonstruck is more of the same in a less loopy, more traditional package. But it's amazing how deep the script can slice in between the Italian-American cliches and popcorn whimsy. Dig this scene where the one-handed, wolflike Ronny Cammareri (Nicholas Cage) tries to sweet talk Loretta Castorini (Cher) into coming up to his apartment after a night at the opera, and as he does so tries to pull his argument from a place deeper than sentiment. Years ago I wrote a lyric "We're born to have our hearts broken and die." I thought then that I knew what I was saying. I didn't. This is what I was saying:

Ronny: Come upstairs. I don't care why you come. No... that's not what I mean. Loretta, I love you. Not... not like they told you love is - and I didn't know this either - but love don't make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart. It makes things a mess. We... we aren't here to make things perfect. The snowflakes are perfect...

Loretta: Oh– [Like the cliche of it is indecent]

Ronny: [Looks up in thought.] The stars are perfect. Not us. Not us. We are here to ruin ourselves and... and to break our hearts and love the wrong people... and... and die! I mean that the story books are bullshit! Now I want you to come upstairs with me and... and... and get in my bed!


Anonymous said...

My mom used to watch this movie when I was younger.

I will always remember the scene where he is baking the bread in the oven.

"I've got one hand Loretta!"

Haven't watched it in a while but being in an Italian household it was required. heh

Marie Lasferatu said...

Hmm, I HATE Doubt, but I do enjoy Joe Vs. the Volcano.

Rachel Smith said...

dad and i used to quote this movie all the time:

"A bride without a head!"

"A wolf without a foot!"