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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
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.
The title "Shoot the moon" refers to a move that can be made in a card
game where the highest possible outcome can be obtained by the risky
strategy of achieving the lowest possible score. This description
symbolises the events that happen as the story unfolds.
Director Alan Parker (Midnight express, Angel Heart) made one of the most haunting movies about human reaction to a domestic crisis ever done with "Shoot the Moon." Featuring a beautifully written script by Bo Goldman (one flew over the cuckoo's nest) and well measured performances by a solid cast.
The film begins with George Dunlap (Albert Finney) and his wife Faith (Diane Keaton) attending an awards dinner. It is clear from the outset that the marriage is in trouble. George is sarcastic and snaps comments at his wife, whilst Faith is distant and preoccupied. The early scenes, brilliantly underplayed by the two leads, show a couple who keep up appearances for their children and colleagues but who privately have lost their way.
When it is revealed that George is having an affair with another woman, the ensuing sequence of events depict a complete breakdown in the family unit with each member of the house reacting differently to the drama.
The scene where Diane Keaton is soaking in the bath and manages to convey a dozen different emotions with her facial expressions whilst singing "If I fell" is incredibly moving. Perhaps even more powerful a scene though, is where George turns up to the family home unannounced to give his eldest daughter her birthday present, only to be shut out of the existence he used to be a part of and treated as an unwanted outsider. It is a sequence shown with characters displaying desperate and raw emotions completely without sentiment as the gravity of what George has done becomes evident.
Finney and Keaton are on top of their game here as is a young Dana Hill (who tragically died prematurely from diabetes) whose scenes with Finney are heartbreaking. Peter Weller also gives good support with a subtle performance as the new man in Faith's life.
A scene where the two leads have a fight over dinner in a hotel feels a bit out of place with the somber tone of the rest of the movie and was probably added to give some comic relief to the audience after so much depression. The film makers also seemed to go "Hollywood" with the ending which seems out of sorts with the rest of the story.
When Oscar time came around in 1982, "Shoot the Moon" was ignored. The film's depressing story was certainly out of character with the main stream features of the day, but more significantly a factor perhaps was that Robert Redfords "Ordinary People" had already covered the family falling to pieces story in 1980 and the academy had honoured the film heavily. There was likely a reluctance by the academy voters to recognise a similar film in the same way so soon.
"Shoot the Moon" is a harrowing tale of how decisions have tragic consequences for others and how sometimes you only realise what kept you going in life, after you've thrown it away.
This is the best film I've ever seen on how someone can destroy the
very foundation that nourishes them, and then, ultimately, resort to
the most dramatic measures when they realize what they've done. This is
a case study in how couples grow apart. The acting on the part of Diane
Keaton and Albert Finney is among the best of their distinguished
careers. Ditto Karen Allen, Peter Weller, and most of all, Dana Hill.
There are scenes in this film that will stay in my mind forever,
especially the one where Diane Keaton is crying while singing "If I
Fell" in the bathtub. The soundtrack is outstanding and the songs are
used to perfection. Notice the use of "Play With Fire" when Diane
Keaton and Peter Weller start their affair.
The movie to me is about how when one person loses touch with themselves, they take so many other people down with them. George is not a bad guy but he has grown irreparably apart from his family. As with many extremely successful people, living in one of the most prestigious counties in the United States, he lost touch of the man he was and what he needs most. The scenes between Albert Finney and Dana Hill, who plays his oldest daughter, are absolutely heart wrenching.
Personally, I think the ultra-dramatic ending is extremely raw and honest. It still haunts me after all these years.
I will always give this film a 10 out of 10.
If you haven't seen "Shoot the Moon", see it. It is very difficult to
find, as it appears to be out of print. To a degree, it reminds me of
"The Pumpkin Eater" (Eng., 1964), with Anne Bancroft and Peter Finch.
Both films deal with bad marriages, in which the husband cheats. Also,
the husbands in both films are writers (Peter Finch plays a
screenwriter, Albert Finney plays a novelist), and the wives are very
supportive, up to a point. However, comparisons seems to end at this
point, as "Shoot the Moon" really portrays the emotional stages of
divorce and its effects on the entire family and others in their
environs whereas "The Pumpkin Eater" focuses mostly on the character of
Jo Armitage, played by Anne Bancroft, and her proclivity to have
children and find most of her self-worth in raising children.
Diane Keaton and Albert Finney play the husband and wife in "Shoot the Moon", and they are both absolutely superb in their roles. Ditto for Dana Hill, the actress playing their oldest child (very tragically, this very talented actress died in 1996 due to complications from diabetes). This film is so realistic, and the acting, all the way around, is so natural. Diane Keaton's scene singing in the bathtub is particularly moving, as is the scene in which Albert Finney wants to give his eldest daughter her birthday present. This whole latter scene was portrayed very realistically....no sugar-coating here, and for that, I applaud Parker and the cast. Keaton's scene with Peter Weller (who plays Frank) on their first "date" was also very realistic and low-key, considering the emotions her character Faith is going through, just re-entering the "dating" scene since her husband left her. Faith's announcement of her knowledge of her husband's affair, to her husband, in the middle of talking about running out of orange juice, was also so realistic. This screenplay was simply very well written all the way around. I might not agree with the ending entirely; but, it was a story option that was plausibly pursued.
On a few other notes, the soundtrack offers a nice throwback to the '70's (Bob Segar, etc.). Also watch for a young Tracey Gold, who would later star in "Growing Pains" and a younger Tina Yothers, who would later star in "Family Ties". I highly recommend this film....a very good story and great acting together provide for a thoroughly enjoyable cinematic experience. In retrospect, it was sorely overlooked on Oscar night.
Why this movie is not on DVD is a mystery. It blows away Kramer Vs. Kramer, which came out a few years before, and is on par with Ordinary People. Anyone who's witnessed a family tearing itself apart because of infidelity, among other issues, will find this movie occasionally unbearable to watch. The ending is a bit too much--for the few who've seen it, the tennis court scene. And a few other scenes are just too over the top. But the acting is so natural (I believe it's the best acting Albert Finney and Diane Keaton have ever done) and their emotions so raw and powerful, that I cry every time I see it. Note to whichever company owns the early '80s MGM catalog--GET THIS ON DVD!
Honest drama about the breakup of a 15 year marriage that is brought to the screen with brute intensity by acting giants Finney and Keaton. Director Alan Parker arrives at some striking revelations about what keeps people together and what drives them apart. There are moments that are exceptionally moving and the supporting cast should also be commended for their work.
This is one of the most powerful and truthful movies I've ever seen. I love it and I watch it over and over. I love Dianne Keaton and this is one of her greatest roles. The children are just terrific and the emotions portrayed are intense and typical of the situation. I feel that his is a movie that every married couple must see. In an age where divorce is so common and seemingly so easy, Shoot The Moon shows how devastating divorce really can be and usually is! I know this from experience! There are so many unresolved emotions and feelings between two people. And even if there has been an affair a marriage can prevail and two people can emerge stronger for it. The marriage can become much better and more loving and true. The children will benefit from seeing that their parents can work through their problems and come out on the other side. A MUST SEE!
1982 was arguably one of the greatest film years in recent memory, with
releases including "E.T.", "Gandhi," and "Sophie's Choice." Still, I
would say that the best film of 1982 - and one of the best films of the
1980's - was "Shoot the Moon." I am not sure exactly why this film
never got the acclaim it deserved...certainly there were many great
films that year that overshadowed it. Moreover, it might have been too
visceral for some...a couple I knew who were previously divorced from
other people were extremely offended by the movie, and found it
I have only seen two films be successful in making the lead characters so likable in one scene, and then so unlikeable in the next scene. This is one of them (the other one is "Twice in a Lifetime"). Bo Goldman's screenplay is tremendous. Diane Keaton's rendition of "If I Fell" while soaking in the bathtub is one of the most haunting and powerful scenes I have ever seen. Also, the scene towards the end of the movie in the restaurant where Finney and Keaton are loudly arguing with each other to the annoyance of other patrons is extremely well done and enjoyable. I believe most of the scene is done in a long take. On regular TV, that scene is butchered due to the language, and they show cut-aways to other patrons to get away with that.
It's been more than 20 years since "Shoot the Moon" was released, and I'm not sure what I could say that would motivate someone to see this film for the first time. But it truly is great. Pauline Kael thought so too, and I'm sure she will carry much more weight with movie fans than me!
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
For me the key to this great film was the scene where Finney and Keaton end up in bed together. In their conversation at this tender but honest moment after their marriage has ended, they wonder aloud what happened to them. He says, "I'm not a kind person." She says, "I'm not kind either." These soft spoken admissions, amid the chaos of the violence, and screaming emotional upheaval woven through the film, provided an answer to what went wrong in the marriage. It's clear they still love each other --the whole film is an illustration of this bond, and he says so to his daughter near the end of the film. But they've run into the mundane problems that eat away at long term marriages without means of overcoming them. What are these means suggested by the film? Kindness and compassion. Neither has kindness toward or compassion for the other. They love their children, and they're "good" people, not immoral. But they have no compassion, not even for their children. Without compunction they say and do things in front of the children that can harm them for life. Neither has any compassion for the other's suffering, or any ability to put themselves in the other's shoes. So at the end (SPOILER) when he lies bloody and beaten with his hand up for comfort from her, she refuses to take his hand, and the camera freezes on this moment.
SHOOT THE MOON is an unbelievably heartbreaking movie. I saw this as a
kid, by myself, in my local theatre in 1982. I love movies - then and
now - particularly adult-skewing films, even when I was 13. I don't
know what I was thinking, but at 13 I wanted to experience
everything... from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK to REDS.
Like Alan Alda's serio-comic THE FOUR SEASONS the year before, this was an introduction to how complicated relationships could be in my future. I came from a happy family, and my parents are still happily together. But my reality is that I lived around this exact movie with my school-aged friends: parents' separations, divorces, the anger and the selfishness, and the confused kids caught in the middle.
The film captures the subtle reality of divorce and the demolition of a relationship through the screen writing of the legendary Bo Goldman and the beautiful direction by Alan Parker.
To this day, the combination still floors me as a viewer. Albert Finney and Diane Keaton have never been better, as a couple going through a separation, a divorce and yet a difficult familial uncoupling, and are perfect for this film. Their performances are stunning. Dana Hill as their child caught in the middle of this separation is phenomenal, that nails the confusion and conflict of forced-adaptation brings.
SHOOT THE MOON helped me understand at a very young age that this is how relationships collapse, and illustrated that people are imperfect. It showed that hubris, loneliness and expectation come with exceptional price-tags - it was a shocker at an early age.
This is one of the lost "great" movies of the 1980s, and I am glad it is on DVD. It's just a movie that is so difficult to embrace, but I am pleased that it exists. It is an amazing movie.
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