Somehow "A Walk On the Moon," which takes place at a working-classJewish resort in upstate New York during the summer of 1969, manages tovisit every iconic event of that characteristic season which defined ageneration without ever feeling like a parade of trite and recycled bohemiancliches.
I'm not entirely sure how this miracle was performed, butformer supporting actor turned director TonyGoldwyn (the bad yuppie in "Ghost"),manages to embrace the rampant and inevitable Moon walk watching, Vietnamtalking and Woodstock going, yet refuses to let them weigh down his picture,narrowing his focus instead on Pearl Kartrowitz (Diane Lane), a discontentedBrooklyn housewife who succumbs to the spirit of that summer while on vacationin the Catskills and has an affair with a enigmatic free spirit (ViggoMortensen).
Lane gives her best performance since playing PauletteGoddard in "Chaplin," subtly revealing Pearl's dormant regretsabout her youth lost to an early pregancy, and portraying vividly boththe resuscitated joy and stark regret stirred by her infidelity with theuninhibited younger man who sells blouses out of a bus at the roadsidecommunity of bungalows where she stays with her kids while her husband(Liev Schreiber) drives back and forth to the city for work.
While the story arch is obvious and several scenes arelittle more than stock episodes for any film depicting this era (nekkidfrolicking in a clear mountain stream, Woodstock, et al), Goldwyn has asmart, subtle, hands-off style that allows the strongly-established relationshipscarry the movie.
Although the film doesn't give us enough explanation ofPearl's marital discontent, there is a potent, underlying sense of familyhistory established by the layered interaction between Lane and Schreiber.The unflagging "Oy" of Pearl's mother-in-law (Tovah Feldshuh)adds substantially to the emotional undercurrent, and Anna Paquin, playingPearl's teenage daughter, absolutely nails the petulance of rampant puberty.
Mortensen ("APerfect Murder," Gus Van Sant's "Psycho")is also perfectly cast, skillfully side-stepping all stereotypes even thoughhe plays a sensitive, seductive beatnik.
Goldwyn's keen sense of detail aids the picture's distinctiveauthenticity. The film opens with the loading of the Kartrowitz's realisticallyover-packed station wagon. There is discernible a sense of kinship amongseasonal residents of the low-rent resort. While on his own in Brooklynduring the week, Schreiber eats cereal out of a frying pan with an overflowingsink of dishes in the background.
In the hands of a hack, this movie could have easily turnedout like "The '60s" -- that train wreck of Boomer banality broadcaston NBC during the February sweeps. But Goldwyn is clearly a superior talentbehind the camera than in front of it, because it's not just the Summerof '69 stuff he overcomes.
He's also saddled with free love and drug culture themes,and a highly-concentrated coming-of-age story (Pearl's daughter gets herfirst period, her first kiss and considers going all the way, all on thesame day).
Yet, "A Walk On the Moon," with its gentle pacingand strong sense of time and place, is engaging in the most simple andhonest ways -- it takes us inside each character's emotions, making uscare about them like we're part of the Kartrowitz family.
In Theaters: Friday 2nd April 1999
Distributed by: Miramax
Production compaines: Groucho II Film Partnership, Miramax Films, Punch 21 Productions, Village Roadshow Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Fresh: 26 Rotten: 10
IMDB: 6.6 / 10
Director: Tony Goldwyn
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