Racing with the Moon (1984) Poster

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10/10
A Wonderful Sleeper
tejagriz-129 December 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I have introduced this movie to many of my friends, as it seems no one has really seen it, or heard of it, but it is truly Wonderful and whenever I get anyone to watch they always agree.

A beautiful, bittersweet look at those touching, heart wrenching times in the 40's as the war was beginning and so many young men willingly went to trenches. I love the setting, California along the pacific coast, such extraordinary scenery. Sean Penn in this movie changed the way I looked at him, I realized his depth and sensitivity here. I have loved him ever since.

I have always loved anything about the 40's and this movie offers it up in spades. From the movie theaters, the roller rink, the side jobs every one had,to the shoes Caddie desires, this movie really captures that era. The bowling alley is priceless. Nicholas Cage does an incredible job here, much more so than the overblown, self-conscious acting he acquires later.

Movies I really like all have one thing in common, details. All the little details and extra touches in this movie make it special. From the pool room scene (nerve-racking) to the abortion scene to the treasure map scene, there are so many wonderful moments in this movie I am astonished it did not get more recognition. But I am a fan of movies that move slow and allow you to absorb the characters and background and plot. I hate car chases and fight scenes.

This movie is about people and emotion and feeling and should be a must see for those who care about those sorts of things.
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8/10
Touching, well-observed slice-of-life
jmbockman26 November 2001
Unlike most Hollywood movies that must be pigeonholed into categories--comedy, drama, romance--this movie dared to be all of these. And it dared to be low-key, without large, manufactured tragedies or plot hooks. Rather, it had the elegiac mood and idiosyncratic details of a fine short story, with its characters neither good nor bad but human, their lives honestly and touchingly observed by a sensitive screenwriter and director.
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8/10
Sensitive and Wonderful Coming of Age Story
Claudio Carvalho17 January 2012
In the Christmas of 1942, in Point Muir, California, the seventeen years-old Henry "Hopper" Nash (Sean Penn) is the best friend of the reckless Nicky (Nicolas Cage), who dates the local Sally Kaiser (Suzanne Adkinson). Henry and Nicky have enlisted themselves in the U.S. Marines and they are waiting to be summoned to travel very soon.

When Henry sees the gorgeous Caddie Winger (Elizabeth McGovern), he has a crush on her and follows Caddie to find where she lives. He discovers that her address is a fancy manor on the top of the hill and Henry believes she is a wealthy teenager while she is actually the daughter of the maid.

Sooner Caddie and Henry date each other and they fall in love with each other. Meanwhile Sally gets pregnant and Nicky needs a large amount for an abortion. They try to raise the money and when Nicky is desperate, he takes an attitude that will test his friendship with Henry.

"Racing with the Moon" is a sensitive and wonderful coming of age story. This film is the second feature of Richard Benjamin that shows an excellent work of direction giving the right doses of drama, romance and humor to the story.

Sean Peen and Nicholas Cage give credibility to their irresponsible characters and the lovely Elizabeth McGovern is so beautiful that mesmerizes when the camera shows her beautiful face and eyes. The costumes and art direction are also fantastic and only yesterday I saw this film for the first time on DVD. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Adeus à Inocência" ("Farewell to the Innocence")
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8/10
Stellar acting in a movie about friendship and growing up
Enchorde7 November 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Recap: The Second World War is raging around the globe. In a little town in California the war is nowhere to be seen but always present. Two young boys, Henry and Nicky, is about to turn 18 and is eager to be off to the war. Now, only a few weeks remain, and the boys have a lot to do before they enlist. Henry meets the beautiful Caddie, a girl he thinks is a little out of his league, in any case considering social status. Both Henry and Nicky are from lower working class, and considers the rich spoiled and like people from some other kind of world. Time ticks, and now they have to tie up all lose ends, which is not as easy as two teenager want them to be.

Comments: The story, or rather there are not much of a story or a plot as there is life. This is a few weeks out of the two boys life, a time of much growing up to do, and a time of friendship without limits. So to speak the story is not very good, one might think. But due mostly to the casts ability to make it so real, so authentic, and so alive and feel so current even though the movie is filmed twenty years ago and set over sixty years ago. And then it hits you that the story is not bad either, because its never meant to be that kind of story that tell some events, its a story about life that everyone (more or less) can relate to. And viewed in in that light, the story is very good.

But as already mentioned, its the actors and actresses, and their acting that really makes this movie worth watching. The friendship between Henry and Nicky, the growing relationship between Henry and Caddie feel very real. You can feel, more than see, the bonds between them. You can feel them evolve together, or just having a good time, or both.

A young Sean Penn is magnificent in the lead as Henry. Its very impressive that an actor in the beginning of his career is able to make such an performance and carry such a heavy burden of the movie. He has good help though. A equally young Nicolas Cage plays Nicky, Henry's friend that has a knack for getting into trouble, and does it really well. He is the wilder one, compared to Henry, but would never fail his friend. And then, Elizabeth McGovern as Caddie. At the beginning of her career too, but already with a Oscar nomination behind her, she has the ability to pull off a very difficult part. The character of Caddie is a little in the shadows behind Henry and Nicky, but when called upon Caddie, i.e. McGovern really shines and interacts well with Henry, and gives him the reason to grow.

It is very impressive that the director Benjamin and the producers dared to give all the leads to such young actors. Their trust paid off well though.

Personally I also liked Henry's father, who had his own way of giving fatherly advice to his soon, but clearly also understood what he went through. A very sympathetic character. And also keep an eye out for a young Michael Madsen.

So, mostly because of the acting (and in some part also the fun to see well-known actors in the beginning of their careers)

8/10
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Flawed people I liked a lot
futures-117 July 2005
"Racing with the Moon" (1984): Richard Benjamin directed Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage, Elizabeth McGovern, Crispen Glover, Carol Kane, Michael Madsen, Dana Carvey - the list goes on - in this "showcase" film, where lots of talent received a major boost. Set in 1942, only weeks before two best friends ship out with the Marines for World War II, we share intimate, funny, pathetic, sad, frightening, and ambivalent moments with flawed people you really come to believe you know, and deep down just have to like. This is a bittersweet, not sugary, nor hopeless story. It's believable, with the mixed emotions, set in that confusing, frozen summer between child and adulthood. Scoring is appropriate, photography is somewhat contrived in spots, but that's the 80's for you. The "truth" of the story, and the talented actors are why you will appreciate "Racing with the Moon".
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7/10
Very likable, but benign...
moonspinner5519 November 2006
Coming-of-age piece set in small town America during WWII. Sean Penn has seldom been so youthfully exuberant and amiable playing a young working-class man about to go off to war, finding love for the first time with a sweet lass he presumes is wealthy ("a Gatsby girl"). Richard Benjamin's direction is sensitive and breezy, and Elizabeth McGovern is a good romantic match for Penn (though sometimes she talks down to him, like a big sister might). Nicolas Cage is also fine as Sean's goof-off buddy, yet the slim screenplay hasn't enough meat on its bones and the middle portion of the film goes around in circles. The period flavor has been captured with non-showy flair, and Penn's exceptional performance is winning, making the film a nearly-satisfying nostalgic drama. *** from ****
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6/10
A Beautiful Coming of Age
caspian197811 January 2005
We never get to see the two main characters in the movie go to War. This world war 3 setting coming of age drama is not so much about the war over in Japan but the war on the home front. Growing up in 1943 in small town California, searching for love and meaning. Sean Penn is great in his role. Even more, Nicolas Cage is better as his close friend and side kick. Whether for comic relief of ream moments of edgy drama, Cage delivers. Also, a surprise in the movie is the performance of Elizabeth McGovern who is always beautiful. The three quickly discover life as they grow up before the two boys are shipped out to the Pacific. Michael Madsen and Crispin Glover pop into the movie with small roles. A nice movie, I wasn't expecting much until the movie started. It is a guarantee crowd pleaser.
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7/10
A Movie about Ordinary People
romanorum119 November 2013
This film is a coming-of-age story focusing on two teens in their final weeks at their quaint home town of Pont Muir, California (really Ft. Bragg/Mendocino) before their 1943 military induction. Henry "Hopper" Nash (Sean Penn), son of a gravedigger, is bright, sensitive, and cultured. His best friend, Nicky (Nicholas Cage), although not unintelligent, is reckless and self-destructive. Although he does not really play pool, he likes to hustle sailors at that table-game. Both Hopper and Nicky like to hitch rides on passing trains. Hopper meets Caddy Winger (Elizabeth McGovern) when he purchases tickets from her at the local movie house. He thinks she is rich ("She's a Gatsby!"), but in reality she is the daughter of a maid who is employed by a rich family at a mansion "on the hill." They date and soon fall in love. Nicky also has a girlfriend, Sally Kaiser (Suzanne Adkinson), whom he does not always treat well.

"Racing with the Moon" beautifully captures the setting of a west coast town in the winter of 1942-1943. Nice period sets include the roller skating rink, the soda fountain, and the bowling alley with pin-boys. The feature carefully develops the characters of teenagers and honestly tells their story of early love. The storyline may not always be pretty, as Sally becomes pregnant and Nicky's attitude is not the best. However there is not a false note in the movie. Some of the popular songs include "Tangerine," "Heart and Soul," and "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy."

Beyond the film lies a lingering question as mankind is currently engaged in the greatest, most destructive war in its history. Assuming that both boys taste combat and are placed in similar situations, and knowing about their individual characters, whom do you think has the better chance of returning home in 1945?
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5 Star
Jen (originaljenn)11 August 2001
If you like the romance movies this one is the one. It is smart in a nice way and its dramatic. It takes place in 1940s. Elizabeth McGovern is great, Nicolas Cage, And Sean Penn. :):):):):):) I dont know why they call it racing with the moon. watch it!!!!
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It was 1942, young men were preparing for the war.
TxMike1 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
This movie was filmed in and around Mendicino, California. Beautiful part of the States. We had the good fortune of spending a long weekend there just a few years after this movie was made, when the area still looked the same. It brought back good memories.

Sean Penn carries this movie as Henry, the fairly serious young man about to complete high school. One day his eye is caught by a new girl in town, the pretty Caddie (Elizabeth McGovern), whom he watches from afar, as she works at the movie house ticket booth, occasionally paying a young boy a few cents to deliver a simple flower to her. This is a "coming of age" story of these boys and girls. There appears to be good "chemistry" between Penn and McGovern, and in fact they became engaged as a result of making this movie together.

Note: The DVD package says this is a "PG" movie, but there is some off-color language and a scene with brief male and female nudity. It didn't bother me at all, but it seems that PG-13 would be more appropriate.

SPOILERS: One evening late, after the ticket booth closed, Caddie came across the street for a piece of pie, which Henry sold her even though he didn't work there. Then he followed her home, by jumping onto the outside of the bus (he was experienced, having jumped on moving trains many times, for fun). He discovers that she lives in a very nice estate, assumes she is of a wealthy family, refers to her as a "gatsby". But her mother is the maid for the wealthy family.Regardless, Henry and Caddie become close, fall in love. She finds out he is an accomplished pianist. "How did you learn to play so well?" he responds simply, "Lessons." His mother wanted him to be in Carnegie Hall, but he had no interest.

Nicolas Cage is Henry's irresponsible sidekick, gets his girl pregnant, they seek an abortion. In an interesting casting, Crispin Glover plays a "Gatsby Boy", who taunts Henry by throwing his bowling ball before Henry, the pinsetter, gets his feet up and out of harm's way. So Henry runs over and punches him. This was a couple of years before Glover was George McFly in "Back to the Future."
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10/10
this movie was just an awesome movie.
hothang23129 June 2004
I think this movie was one of the best romance movies I have ever seen!!! to me, this was way better than Titanic,etc. I think this movie would even be better if it had a sequel to it. Like it starting off showing them in the war and what they experience. Then they should show them coming home and what happens with Hop and his girlfriend, like if they get married or not. I love this movie, Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage were awesome in this movie, you couldn't have asked for 2 better actors. Also, if there's not a novel already published, I think they should have one. I think one of the very low points of this movie was that it had so much cursing, it could have made a good family movie if it didn't have that in it. Also the nudity was just not necessary. Basically that movie was totally ruined because of those two things.
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7/10
Nostalgia at its best
lib-48 March 1999
This is an early Cage and Penn movie- they both do remarkably well portraying boys of the 1940's- and the subplot- mixing up a girl who works for the rich people- thinking she is rich- adds to the story. There are also some cameos by Carvey and Glover A light film.
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10/10
A Film about People
guywhoacts15 September 2017
Racing with the Moon is a fantastic film about people and emotions. My favorite thing about was the attention to detail. From the pool scene to the abortion scene, every moment keeps you engaged.

It's a roller coaster of a film in the best way possible. We also get to see the pairing up of Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage again which is a lot of fun. They have great chemistry.
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A sensitive story, of life's change, of stolen youth.
Doctor_Bombay4 March 1999
I've always viewed Richard Benjamin as a sensitive, honest filmmaker. Sure, he's made some less-than-great films, but his directorial debut, `My Favorite Year' may be about the funniest film ever made.

Racing with the Moon--the boy, his friend, and the girl--a small town in the Midwest in 1942 and a few weeks before the young men are to be inducted in the service. Their lives will be changed unequivocally, and they will no longer be boys. This is all the time they have left to enjoy the freedom, the carefree wonderment that is youth.

Stevn Kloves first produced script (later The Fabulous Baker Boys) is right on target with smart roles for three young stars. Sean Penn had Taps, and Fast Times behind him, and was his career was flourishing, Nick Cage had done Valley Girl, and Birdy, but would languish for ten more years, before achieving stardom, and Elizabeth McGovern, who's wonderful as Caddie Winger, is still waiting her just recognition.

Benjamin was born and raised in New York City, but his age is appropriate to our main characters. I'm sure he smiled, over and over as he recalled his own youth. His heart is in Racing with the Moon, and its worth your time, to go back for a moment, and enjoy those times.
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4/10
Treading water.
jane-4226 June 2001
Not a great film, but worth seeing for the budding romance between Penn and McGovern. They make a very credible couple. I expected more chemistry between Penn and Cage, they are both, after all, Fast Times alums! But the script doesn't give them a lot together. Mainly watchable for a pleasant afternoon watching Penn do a nice guy role for one of the few times in his career.
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9/10
Raciing with the Moon is quite an enjoyable romance-comedy-drama taking place at a peaceful coastal town during World War II
tavm3 November 2015
After over 30 years of only reading about this movie, I finally watched it yesterday on a DVD that I borrowed at the library a few weeks ago. Taking place during World War II, Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage play a couple of late teens who try to live life to the fullest before they join the Marines. Penn develops a relationship with Elizabeth McGovern who he thinks may be a "Gatsby Girl". Cage's character is involved with a girl named Sally who ends up in an unfortunate situation. I'll stop there and just say there's quite a compelling mix of drama, romance, and comedy that keeps one watching and enjoying nearly every minute that happens during the whole movie. This being only Richard Benjamin's second film as director-after My Favorite Year-he really handles Steve Kloves' material sensitively enough that one is touched even during parts that seem to threaten to get a little too much on the sentimental side though still somewhat believable. Really, all I'll say now is I highly recommend Racing with the Moon.
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3/10
Sexy saxophone soundtrack didn't help any...
FatMan-QaTFM25 August 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Oh boy oh boy! I'm up to 32 Nick Cage movies watched! Crossed the halfway point with this gem and Bringing Out the Dead.

What do we have here? A coming of age drama in which Nick Cage plays an idiotic womanizer who uses his friends? And do we also have a moody, whiny Sean Penn to boot? What more could I ask for?? Although it seems to have killed his career as a director, Richard Benjamin at least had the decency to shoot it in 1.85:1, unlike Zandalee.

The story involved Nicky (Nick Cage... hmm), his friend Henry (Sean Penn), and Henry's chubby chunkin' cheeked love interest, Caddie (Elizabeth McGovern). Nicky loves to run the gauntlet of loose women in town, while Henry is a one-girl man. All heck breaks loose when Nicky impregnates a girl and convinces her to abort it. Hilarity ensues as they are ushered off to war after doing a lot of yelling and moping.

Favorite Nick Cage Line: "Wow, 200 bucks a shot. That's some business, huh?"

Favorite Nick Cage Moment: When he's driving his hot rod away from the abortion, swigging from a booze bottle. Classy.

Gotta be honest, I had to look up a script to even find a decent NC line in the entire movie. Unlike many of his movies, it wasn't so much embarrassing as it was boring. Surprisingly, there were some saucy scenes in this (for whatever reason) PG movie underscored by a sensual saxophone soundtrack.
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8/10
Must-See Sean Penn & Co. Movie
JLRMovieReviews24 January 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Before Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage became big names, they starred in this coming-of-age movie, leading up to the enlistment of WWII. Elizabeth McGovern, from Ordinary People and this year's Downton Abbey, costars as a girl that Sean likes and thinks is rich, when in fact, she only lives in a fancy house, because her mother is a maid there. Nicolas Cage is a love-em-and-leave-em type, who uses girls for his pleasure and then tosses them away. One girl of his gets "in trouble" and needs money for an abortion. Nick and Sean try to get the money by playing pool and betting with marines. But when that doesn't turn out the way they planned, Sean asks Elizabeth for it, who in turn tries to steal and pawn something from the house. Nick really acts like a jerk to the girl and he and Sean have a falling out. But because of their deep friendship and the fact they're leaving soon, they're friends again. Besides the plot (which I've practically told,) the film's main assets are the star's acting and charm (including Ms. McGovern) which make it all very credible. We are allowed to see the youth and naivety of the period and their zest for life, and we see the characters, not wanting to grow up, trying to hold on to today, despite the inevitable war coming to disrupt their world. Racing with the Moon is an early Sean Penn highlight and one that should be discovered today.
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7/10
Great Acting
TamPalm12 September 2010
I had not even heard of this movie until I caught it yesterday on one of the movie channels. A real delight. It's not heavy, there is no horrible lows or extreme highs. It's steady-paced and its significance will mean something different to each viewer. In fact, I thought it was an adaptation of a movie because it feels like a literary work, one in which you feel yourself analyzing the meaning of this or that. At its core though, it's essentially a coming of age story, not really a lot more than that.

By far, the movie's best selling feature is the acting. Simply superb, from all parties, especially Penn and McGovern. Sean Penn is really likable in this role, sweet and endearing. You almost forget what you know of him later on,how political and intense he really is in his real life. But that's what superb actors do--they make you forget what you know about them personally and force you to accept whatever character they're offering on the screen. I also thought Elizabeth McGovern played her role seamlessly. She and Penn are great together. Nicholas Cage also shines, but not as brightly as the two main characters.

This movie is pleasant and delightful, but not all that memorable. It won't leave a huge indelible impression on you. It will just make you feel good for a few hours, then you'll be on to the next thing, maybe even forgetting about the movie. So I can see how it wasn't a smash hit and how it has flown under so many people's radar. Star Wars it ain't. But a quality piece of cinema it most definitely is.

One small quarrel I will offer before closing. I would like to know how the powers that be negotiated the movie down from an R-rating to PG. There is nudity and language that does not fit PG criteria. I smell a payoff of some sort. Hmmm

Anyway, see this film on a lazy afternoon, even add it to your DVD collection for those times when you just want to feel good. It is worthy.

7/10
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9/10
2 boys just can't wait to go to war
helpless_dancer26 April 2000
This one looked like it was filmed during the 40's right down to the overly waved up hair on some of the women. Fine acting by the 3 main characters go along with the props [especially the bowling pin machines] to give the viewer a sense of the war years. Not a real deep story, but well done and well worth seeing.
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PG rating?
qmabanta1 December 2005
I was surprised to see that the rating on this movie was only PG. My children were in the room when I glanced over and saw the skinny dipping scene. Of course I immediately changed the channel. When I told a friend about it, she said that she had recently seen the movie as well, and told me that there is an additional scene where Nicholas Cage and Sean Penn say the "F" word and the "P" word. (I'm sure most adults know which words were said). This is totally unacceptable for a PG rated movie! I read on IMDb that this movie originally had an R rating and then was changed. I'd like to know why! Hopefully this comment will serve as a warning to any other unsuspecting parent.
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6/10
great actors in bitter sweet romance
SnoopyStyle9 December 2016
It's 1942. Henry 'Hopper' Nash (Sean Penn) and Nicky (Nicolas Cage) are small town best friends drafted into the Marines. With deployment weeks away, they work at the local bowling alley setting pins and chase girls. Hopper is infatuated with rich newcomer Caddie Winger (Elizabeth McGovern) but she's secretly the maid's daughter. Nicky gets Sally Kaiser pregnant and needs $150 for the abortion. Hopper and Nicky get beaten by Navy sailors after trying to hustle them playing pool. Hopper asks Caddie for the money.

The first half is a slow coming-of-age romance. The second half takes some more intense turns. The problem is that Sally don't have much screen time before then. The movie doesn't invest that much in her plight. This is about Hopper and Caddie. Ultimately, it's a device to get at their own story. It's nice to see these great actors in their youth and there is a bitter sweet romance here.
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7/10
Has its moments
bandw1 June 2016
Warning: Spoilers
This story takes place in a small California town in 1942 and concentrates on two teenage boys, Henry (Sean Penn) and Niky (Nicolas Cage), and their girlfriends and family in the weeks prior to their joining the war effort. Many lighthearted scenes are interwoven with some serious ones.

For viewers of a certain age this movie will evoke much nostalgia. Whoever produced the look and feel of the era got it just about right and, no matter your age, that should be appreciated. I particularly liked the recreation of a bowling alley of the time before automatic pinsetters, when surly pin boys would confront bowlers who did not respect the rules of etiquette. A period locomotive plays a central role in several scenes-- it is a gateway between the town and the outside world and reminds us that the boys will be taken from their youthful concerns to life-changing experiences in faraway places.

As are many close friendships between two men, one is the more serious (Henry) and the other is a little reckless and wild (Niky). I thought Sean Penn did well in giving Henry an authenticity that is rarely granted to teenage characters in movies. Henry is not a delinquent nor is he a straight arrow, he is a young man dealing with the normal issues of coming of age in a difficult time. I particularly liked Henry's relationship with his family that allowed his parents to be seen as sincere relatable adults rather clueless bumblers. Nicolas Cage sparkles as Niky and Elizabeth McGovern is the perfect 1940s beauty as Henry's love interest Caddie. The casting director should be congratulated.

There is an abortion scene that is character-revealing and makes a strong case for the value of the Roe vs. Wade decision.

Some scenes seemed too scripted for humorous or dramatic effect, like the pool hustling scene and the scene where Caddie, who has never played the piano, is able to quickly pick up playing to accompany a surprisingly competent Henry on a piece.

Well filmed, often engaging, this is worth seeing.
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7/10
Coming of Age in Wartime America
atlasmb5 July 2014
Henry (Sean Penn) and Nicky (Nicholas Cage) are best friends who attend high school together. It's 1942 and all of life seems like a prelude to their induction into the Marines. They share all the adventures of young men on the threshold of adulthood. But Nicky is irresponsible, never seeming to consider the consequences of his actions.

Henry meets Caddie (Elizabeth McGovern), a classmate who lives in a nice house on a hill. In this coming of age story, Henry finds that he has adult feelings for Caddie. She helps teach him about life's consequences.

I know some viewers are not fans of Sean Penn, Nicholas Cage or Elizabeth McGovern, so any one of them in a cast might discourage someone from viewing this film. Personally, I am a fan of Elizabeth McGovern. And I have seen excellent performances from the two men, even if I do not embrace the body of their work. In "Racing with the Moon", each of them is well suited for his part. I think most who appreciate period pieces like "Stand by Me" or "The Summer of 42" will enjoy this film.

With direction by Richard Benjamin, RWTM really captures the feeling of the times, when America was so enveloped by patriotism and somewhat naïve about its place in the world. In just three more years, the worldview would change with the advent of nuclear weaponry. The music in the film really helps create the tone of the times. I enjoyed this film, particularly because of the relationship between the two young lovers.
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7/10
The Moon Might Win.
Robert J. Maxwell23 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Two seventeen-year-old chums, Sean Penn and Nicholas Cage, have about two months before they leave for Marine Corps boot camp in the early years of World War II. Their adventures vary. Penn falls in love with Elizabeth McGovern but is concerned that she might be too rich for him, which she isn't. (Her mother is merely a maid in a large Victorian mansion.) Cage is the more reckless of the two, a drinker who gets his girl pregnant and has to borrow the abortion money from Penn, who has to borrow it from McGovern, who has to borrow it from her wealthy friend. Penn and Cage leave a little wreckage behind but the departure for the Marines is about as close an approximation of happiness that they're liable to see for a while.

It's a puzzling movie, with echoes of autobiographical first stories. It looks like a movie about the author's youth and seems to be an attempt to convey to the audience the emotions that accompanied his early experiences. It resembles other youth movies about the war years. "Hope and Glory" and "Summer of 42" come to mind. Yet the screenwriter was only in his early thirties. Maybe it's something passed on to him by his Dad, in rough form. Maybe it was a gift of the muse.

Whatever it was the production design and location shooting are phenomenal. Makes you want to live in that picturesque and amiable little town of Point Muir, California, up in Mendocino County, even though the movie, supposedly shot around Christmas, must have been shot in the summer. (In the winter, every outdoor scene would have been rained out.) Wardrobe, set dressing, and make up are accurate to the period, and Dave Grusin's musical score is apt.

The script, though it has its drama and suspenseful comedy, is pretty leisurely. The war and the possibility of death hangs over everything like a translucent gray shroud but the events and conflicts we see are small in scale. That's as it should be.

The writer pulls a couple of literary stunts. Early on, there are allusions to Shakespeare, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Homer. I can believe that Penn's father, a grave digger by profession, can say something about "a rose by any other name," but I don't know where a gravedigger would come up with his name for his dog -- Argos. And when they spot McGovern entering the mansion, thinking that her family owns it, Cage remarks that "she's a Gatsby." And Penn understands at once. Okay, I had to read "The Great Gatsby" in high school too but I don't know about today's kids getting it. Last time I checked, the only student in my class who'd read it, got to do so in an advanced placement class in her high school. What a terrible comment on today's youth, he said, gnawing the handle of his cane, his spectacles sliding off into the guacamole, cursing fitfully while searching for his teeth.

Well, there's certainly one way in which the golden age of small-town youthful mores was an improvement over the more recent period in which I grew up -- that unplanned pregnancy by Cage's girl friend, and the oh-so-casual way in which, on only their second date, Penn and McGovern exchange bodily fluids. I can guarantee you that there was nothing like that going on in Hillside High School! No, siree, Bob. Man, it was lousy. But, all seriousness aside, I don't believe there was much of it going on in Point Muir in 1942 either. Another stunt by the writer, called modernizing the mores.

The movie exudes this slight but undeniable charm. It's quiet and contained. Nobody's head gets wrenched off. I kind of enjoyed it. It's like taking a diachronic vacation from today's problems, even though the vacation spot has problems of its own, and the ones off screen are monumental in scope.
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