Tuesday, November 13, 2012

About the film Shoot the Moon

I sat and watched the 1982 film Shoot the Moon last night on TCM; it has to be at least the tenth time I’ve seen the film. It is hands-down the best movie I’ve ever seen about marital problems, impending divorce, and the effects of a broken relationship on children. I love this film for its raw honesty and the incredible acting of Albert Finney (George), Diane Keaton (Faith), and Dana Hill (who plays their eldest daughter Sherry). These are characters that you can actually like and get to know--better put, these are people that you can relate to. Each time I watch the movie, I realize that the entire story resembles life—messy, chaotic, no pat answers, situations that are not explainable or forgivable or black-and-white. There are no easy answers in this movie, and no contrived happy endings. If you choose to interpret the ending as a new beginning for the estranged couple, you are a romantic. I am not so sure, even after the tenth viewing. And that could say more about me than about the character of Faith, who remains ambiguous about her feelings for George even after he dumps her for a younger woman (Sandy, played by Karen Allen) with a small son, moves out, and goes to live with Sandy. I like Faith’s ambiguity; she isn’t sure what she wants, even when she gets involved with Frank (played by Peter Weller), who is the contractor she hires to build the tennis court she has always wanted. She still loves George, even though she knows that so much of their relationship is irretrievably broken. She is jealous of Sandy and has no desire to hear about her. She has four daughters to take care of and does a good job of taking care of them in a difficult situation. She could have demanded more attention and focus on herself; she could have wallowed in self pity. But she doesn’t. Her father’s illness and her mother’s interference in her life are also issues that she deals with, in addition to the demise of her marriage. This too is the way real life is. You don’t get to choose all the time what you want to deal with—one problem at a time. Sometimes there are multiple problems that get dumped on you all at once, and the only choice you have is to sink or swim. George for his part still loves Faith, but he is in love with Sandy because she pays attention to him, like Faith used to before she got totally involved in raising their children. He is also a jealous person, aggressive, and has an explosive temper; he doesn’t like Frank and doesn’t like the idea of Frank hanging around his old home getting to know Faith or his children.

The most poignant scenes in the film are those between Sherry and George, and Sherry and Faith. Sherry, who is a teenager on the verge of adulthood, is most affected by her parents’ split, and desperately tries to understand what is going on. She doesn’t get many clear answers from either parent. What they do manage to impart to her is how much they love her, despite their own problems. Sherry gets to see her parents as flawed people; again, this is how real life is. The scene when she asks her mother why husbands and wives don’t wait for each other as they pass through doors on their way to new rooms—in essence, why they don’t share their new experiences with each other—is touching. Or when she asks her father if he loves Timmy (Sandy’s son) more than his own daughters and George says no. But Sherry knows (and verbalizes) her doubt about his priorities; she knows that Timmy will ultimately usurp her and her sisters’ places in their father’s heart. Sandy will see to that. This is also a reality many people in such a situation do not want to deal with. It’s easier to lie, to say that nothing will be different, when of course nothing could be further from the truth. Children know the truth; they can intuit it. Children in the same family may deal with their parents’ divorce differently. Sherry is the oldest daughter and the hardest hit. It’s hard not to sympathize with her anger and confusion. Shoot the Moon is timeless despite its being thirty years old; it has as much to say to us today about marriage and divorce as it did when it was made.     

No comments:

Post a Comment