Period pieces can be a tough sell if the audience who lived during the film's setting is still alive. Audiences are quick to scrutinize a movie taking place during a time and region they're familiar with. Still when a director pulls it off the results can be amazing. I recall my folks being amazed by the dialogue and look of LA Confidential or my Grandpa Mario telling me how The Grapes of Wrath wasn't just a piece of fiction, but a tale many endured during the Great Depression.
Sometimes we even choose to accept the reality of a film we know deep down is a poor representation of anything resembling authenticity. For example I'll paraphrase the great Tony Horowitz: Nothing has had such an impact on romanticizing the antebellum south than Gone with the Wind, a movie that was shot on a Hollywood back lot. Many have chosen to accept the characterization as accurate even though Tara nor the characters that inhabited it ever existed.
The Man in the Moon is one of those films that transported me to a time and place I'm largely unfamiliar with, but for whatever reason it felt authentic. Taking place in late 50s it tells the story of two southern teenage sisters who are entering that confusing time of growing into woman hood. The younger sister, played brilliantly by Reese Witherspoon, falls for her neighbor. The boy is a few years older and can't take being the object of affection by someone so seemingly naive, especially when he meets her older sister. Drama ensues, tragedy is struck, and both girls come to accept life's hardships and start to put aside childhood fantasies.
Films are fiction as we all know, but when a writer captures the feeling of a time we may hardly remember, or in some cases want to forget, we can't help be entertained. The Man in the Moon seems like a simple coming of age story, but it's one that truly respects it's characters. Rather than showing teenagers as simply shallow and selfish the scripts allows them to be thoughtful, decent, and at their worst confused, which is very refreshing. With strong performances by the already mention Reese Witherspoon in her first role the movie is worth it for the acting alone. What amazed me most about the story is how it arcs almost wildly through emotions, but is never corny or cheap. As I said before the script respects it's players, but the director also shows the same for his audience.
No one actually submitted this for review, but a few bloggers recommended this so I thought what the hell. I haven't written about film in a while. Given the movie's strengths I would recommend it, but it's something I'll never watch again for reasons I won't get into.
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"As the film approached its conclusion without having stepped wrong once, I wondered whether he could do it - whether he could maintain the poetic, bittersweet tone, and avoid the sentimentalism and cheap emotion that could have destroyed this story. Would he maintain the integrity of this material? He would, and he does." - Roger Ebert