The cleverness of this movie lies in its true take on the familiar. The Catskills camp, the one-liners, the culture, the comedy-we've seen it all before, but somehow the bungalows have never been quite as identical, the cars so shabby, the loudspeaker so calmly controlling.

A WALK ON THE MOON

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


A Walk on the Moon is a delicious slice of life in a Catskill bungalow community. Director Tony Goldwyn and his flawless cast create, layer by layer, the flavor of Dr. Folger's family camp without ever violating the tone they set initially. This camp-"an army barracks with lawn furniture"--is so true that we nearly respond by reflex to the orders spilling out of the loudspeaker in Julie Kavner's perfect flat voice: "The ice cream man is on the premises." The loudspeaker promises that a resident will show slides of a Bar Mitzvah, a barbecue will be held, a movie will be shown. Slightly further away, Woodstock will convene, a man will walk on the moon. It is summer, 1969.

The Kantrowitz family-mom, dad, son, daughter, and grandma-pile into their overloaded car for the annual trek to the camp, where bungalow dwellers play cards, trade tales, and live routines as exact as those they left behind. Marty (Liev Schreiber) and Pearl (Diane Lane) were married in their teens during Pearl's unintended pregnancy. Pearl is now 34 and aching from the realization that "my whole life has gone by and the most important decision I've made is whether to go to the A&P or Waldbaums."

What started as a camp comedy becomes a coming of age story for mother and daughter. 14-year-old Alison (Anna Paquin) explores sex with the 16-year-old lifeguard. Pearl, deadened by the familiarity of her life, does the same with Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen). "The blouse man is on the premises." She will risk her marriage for the feel of something new-anything will do.

Marty is a pensive, sweet, loyal guy who loves his wife and kids, and has a deep respect for his mother. Pearl is a good woman who has lost herself and has to do something about it at painful expense to her husband and children. Daughter Alison is asserting herself, but genuine love for her family lies just beneath the rebellious surface.

If all this sounds like standard stuff, be assured that the characters transcend the plot. As acted by Liev Schreiber, Diane Lane, and Anna Paquin, they bring rare kindness and decency to their battles with life's minor dilemmas. They actually manage to create a family love story. The glue that holds them-and the movie-together is Tovah Feldshuh, who plays Grandmother Lilian. She manages to love her family without smothering them, to help them without judging them. She's a listener, an observer. Her wonderful performance lifts everything out of the ordinary.

The cleverness of this movie lies in its true take on the familiar. The Catskills camp, the one-liners, the culture, the comedy-we've seen it all before, but somehow the bungalows have never been quite as identical, the cars so shabby, the loudspeaker so calmly controlling. "Why do we do this?" Marty asks at the outset. Just to give us this much pleasure, Marty.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 496
Studio : Miramax
Rating : R
Running time : 1h45m


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