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A fifteen year marriage dissolves, leaving both the husband and wife, and their four children, devastated. He's preoccupied with a career and a mistress, she with a career and caring for four young children. While they attempt to go their separate ways, jealousy and bitterness reconnect them. Written by
Philip Gilman <email@example.com>
A post-Vietnam optimism swept our country in the late 1970's and early 80's; filmmakers began to focus on parents and their children instead of rebels and the counterculture. So we had Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, On Golden Pond, Terms of Endearment, and even E.T. Shoot the Moon was lost in the shuffle due to it's downbeat feel and it's too bad: it offers scenes and performances that blow away the other films by far. It did not sweep the awards or succeed at the box office but sometimes that's not such a bad thing. Written by Bo Goldman (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest) and directed by Alan Parker (Midnight Express), the film shows the effect on the family unit when love between the parents fades. There's not alot of laughs here and the film doesn't build in the conventional Hollywood-family movie way: it moves slow and takes its time with several sequences individually building better than the film itself. But the filmmakers strive for realism pays off, creating a powerfully intense viewing experience with a major blessing: the child actors are effective and work well. Goldman and Parker have 10 children between them and the intimacy they create in these setpieces is unique: there's no staginess or false notes.
Diane Keaton and Albert Finney are extrordinary: Keaton first showed the signs of strong dramatic chops in Looking For Mr. Goodbar and Interiors but they were merely warm-ups for her crowning work here and in Reds. In her bathtub scene - alone, she looks up and softly sings 'If I Fell' while a flood of emotions wash over her face- Faith's anger and vulnerability are beautifully displayed in such a simple way; most actors would chew the scenery when performing a scene like this -Keaton just breathes and lets it happen. She really is one of our great actors -playing comedy and drama with ease- and a role model when it comes to project choices.
Albert Finney -his face bloated and depressed- displays the raw intensity we used to see in DeNiro. It's hard to believe he's the same good looking young man who brought the sexy Tom Jones to life and became a sixties icon. Finney went on to give an Academy Award nominated performance as the raging alcoholic in Under the Volcano but it's here he does his best work. George's anger and desperation are stunningly realized during the sequence when he tries to give his daughter her belated birthday gift only to be locked out of the home he used to be a part of. It's a brutal scene played without sentiment and is probably the most memorable in the film.
Talented Karen Allen (playing George's mistress) went on to play the strongest female role Steven Spielberg's ever created in Raiders of the Lost Ark; here, she's merely decorative. However, Peter Weller adds great support as Faith's love interest and Dana Hill is heartbreaking as Sherry, the oldest daughter.
A restaurant fight between Faith and George feels very false and played for laughs and the ending is a bit contrived, but there's too much in this film that deserves to be seen. Hopefully, a DVD treatment will be available; maybe then Shoot the Moon will be given its due.
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