A Walk on the Moon (1999) – movie review

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Movie Review by Louise Charman

Starring: Diane Lane, Liev Schreiber, Anna Paquin, Viggo Mortensen, Torah Feldshuh

Director: Tony Goldwyn

A WALK ON THE MOON is an impressive debut for director Tony Goldwyn and screenwriter Pamela Gray. Set in the summer of ?69, at the time of the Apollo mission and just a few miles from Woodstock, New York, this is the story of Pearl Kantrowitz, a young housewife and mother who feels the spirit of the times is passing her by.

Vacations are spent at Dr Fogler?s bungalows, a Catskills resort where the same Jewish families gather every summer. Pearl and her devoted but conservative husband Marty (Diane Lane and Liev Schreiber) arrive at the bungalows with their headstrong teen Alison (played by the talented Anna Paquin, famous for her Oscar winning performance in THE PIANO at the age of nine), young son Danny, and Marty?s meddling but intuitive mother (Tovah Feldshuh). Highlights of the day for the resort wives include the arrival of travelling salesmen, among them ?The Blouse Man? a charming hippie by the name of Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortenson). When Marty has to return to the city to meet the demands of work (repairing hundreds of TVs in time for the moon landing), Pearl starts an affair with Walker and is gradually initiated into the free spirit of the 60?s, from tie dye T-shirts to marijuana and ultimately, to Woodstock. But inevitably events catch up with Pearl and she has to face up to her family, her future, and her past.

Romance and comedy are amply delivered without the film becoming over sentimental or clichéd. The quaint atmosphere of the resort is conveyed with affectionate humour, and the characters are well observed and convincing. The sexual development of mother and daughter are nicely paralleled, each sneaking out of the house for romantic liaisons, and both making the illicit trip to the free love fest which is Woodstock. Their personal journeys are shown to be as important as the momentous world events going on around them: both experience a ?first kiss? as Neil Armstrong steps on to the moon shining above them.

Music from the sixties is also used to good effect throughout the film, including many lesser known tracks as well as the classics. It?s easy to forget how much of an impact this music must have had at the time, particularly on a generation who grew up in the 1950?s to the crooning of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin. When Marty finally starts to tune into Pearl?s feelings he switches the radio from Dean Martin to Jimi Hendrix, in a clear admission that the times, they are a?changin?.

Touching without being schmaltzy, A WALK ON THE MOON is a refreshing change from standard Hollywood fare.

4 out of 6 stars