Pros: great acting, good story
Cons: repetitive role for Lane, social references unnecessary
Forty years ago the world changed. The universe opened up to new possibilities when man walked on the moon. Back at home, society was changing too. Some say for the better, some say for worse. There’s no doubt, however, that convention and values were challenged in many ways.
A Walk on the Moon celebrates both of those changes. Against the backdrop of the lunar landing, traditional family values are challenged and changed. To get away from summers in the city, middle class families often rented places in the mountains for the entire summer. Husbands would work in the city and come up on weekends. These places weren’t the resort hotels of today; quite often they were cottage colonies where each family had their own space. If they were lucky, there was a pond, lake, or river nearby for swimming and kids ran wild and explored in a way they weren’t allowed to in the city.
Diane Lane is Pearl, a housewife from New York City who goes to her usual summer rental in the Catskills mountains in the summer of 1969. Her husband, Marty (portrayed by Liev Schreiber) must leave early to return to work, and as she spends time with her family, she is becoming less tolerant of their idiosyncricies.
Pearl and Marty had to get married and their oldest daughter, Alison (portrayed by Anna Paquin), is the result of that. She’s in her teen rebellion years and in a way Pearl envies her. Other than Marty, there was never another man in her life and watching her daughter experience life helps prod Pear into wondering what she missed out on.
Enter Viggio Mortensen as a traveling clothing salesman, Walker Jerome. He lives something of a bohemian lifestyle without any responsibility that appeals to Pearl right about this time. She embarks on an affair that is anything but discreet. Her mother-in-law who is staying with them, Lillian (portrayed by Tovah Feldshuh) knows by sheer instinct what’s happening and surprisingly wants to keep the family together more than she cares about tearing down the wife who’s stepping out on her son. Then there’s also this concert happening not too far away where both mother and daughter sneak off to.
A Walk on the Moon was good when taken on its own. It seems that lately I’ve seen Lane in similar roles, and that hurts it a bit. Both Pearl and Connie in Unfaithful have no real reason for looking elsewhere other than the fact that they seem bored in their marriages. Pearl at least makes the effort to spice it up a bit, but Marty wants none of it.
Marty is content with the way things are. With a workplace that is stressful - he’s an appliance repairman - he yearns for the comfort of coming home and not having to contend with a lot of upheaval. However, that isn’t working for his wife. Unfortunately, the little communication about their relationship seems to not be heard by either of them.
The story is simple and complicated at the same time. People wither will or won’t sympathize with Pearl, and I think that’s what makes the film work. By bringing to it our own personal biases, people take away something different and it makes for interesting conversation.
Other than the depiction that the world was drastically changing in the summer of 1969 for various reasons, the backdrop of the summer is lost in many ways. The story could have been told about 1967 or just about any time before these summer communities really died off. It’s a world alien to children of today and even to people outside of a major metropolitan area where this happened on a regular basis. In some ways, it’s even a distraction as some of the references to what’s going on outside of the characters at the center of the story seems forced.
However the story itself is good. The family dynamic is played out well, particularly after Alison learns of her mother’s infidelity. She’s rebelling against her family but at the same time wants to keep the feeling that they are always there. Anna Paquin is excellent here, making me forget that I was watching her in the role, something she’s usually terrific at doing. She’s the one calling her mother to task, at one point screaming at her “I’m the teenager, not you!”
I like Lane in the role, but it suffers because I saw Unfaithful first. I can understand Lane choosing these parts because both Pearl and Connie are excellent roles for a woman at this age. However, it really made it hard for me to appreciate the character. Her chemistry with both Mortensen and Schreiber is excellent as I could easily read her relationship with both of them. Although sexually liberating, her relationship with Mortensen goes beyond just that. At the same time while I was watching it, I knew if in the end Mortensen was her choice Schreiber would be the one still acting as the steady rock for their children. There is something comforting in what Marty presents, although Pearl must discover that for herself.
A Walk on the Moon is a good film. I think it had issues, not all of which were the fault of the film itself. I don’t know that it needed to be set during the summer of 1969, but this is what it is and it’s a decent film. The performances are good and the story is one that is not cut and dried, black and white. I would put it in the category of a chick-flick as I can’t imagine a man really wanting to watch it.
© 2009 Patti Aliventi