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Shoot the Moon

Posted by martinteller on March 21, 2013

The successful writer George Dunlap (Albert Finney) is having difficulty in his marriage to Faith (Diane Keaton).  He leaves her to go be with Sandy (Karen Allen), a woman he’s been seeing on the side.  Faith goes ahead with her plans to get a tennis court installed at the house, and starts a fling with the contractor (Peter Weller).  Caught in the middle of this tumultuous separation are four young daughters (Dana Hill, Viveka Davis, Tracey Gold, Tina Yothers).

I’d seen all of Alan Parker’s other movies from 1976 to 1988 (and most of the ones after that), so I figured I might as well see this one.  A long, long time ago I considered him my favorite director, based largely on The Wall, Angel Heart, Birdy and Midnight Express.  Except for the Pink Floyd film, I’m not as fond of these as I used to be, but he had a pretty good run there.  He’s not really an auteur, but he did some solid work.

I’m not sure this brings anything new to the “divorce drama” genre.  Coming in the wake of Kramer vs. Kramer, Ordinary People, and of course, Scenes from a Marriage, there isn’t anything that fresh here.  Heck, Finney himself had already covered similar ground in the excellent Two for the Road.  But I think what it does different (mind you, I still haven’t seen KvK) is introduce some levels of ambiguity.  We don’t know where things went wrong for George and Faith… as the film begins, the marriage is already on the rocks, and there’s no flashbacks to indicate a rift developing.  We don’t know how long George has been seeing Sandy, or why, or how much Faith knows and how long she’s known it.  The film is more interested in the emotional aftermath, with special attention to how the eldest daughter (Hill) is affected.

Some scenes are very honest and engaging.  When Finney busts into the house and has a violent outburst, it’s riveting but chilling and tragic.  Many of the smaller interactions hide some fine observations.  But many scenes are incredibly forced, phony, melodramatic.  Keaton crying in the bathtub, singing “If I Fell” to herself was a real groaner.  A fight in a restaurant turns into a dumb, unrealistic bit of comedy.  The finale — although I like the open-ended note it fades out on — feels completely false, there’s just enough motivation for this huge gesture.  The script is too uneven, where every good, genuine moment is followed by a hacky one.  I can’t blame the actors too much, but Keaton in particular is unconvincing.

A couple of bits of trivia.  Parker inserts two instances of self-reference: the kids sing a song from Fame in the car, and Hill has the poster from “The Wall” on her wall.  Gold and Yothers both went on to play in hugely successful sitcoms (“Growing Pains” and “Family Ties”, respectively).  Hill might be most recognizable as the new “Audrey” in European Vacation.  From what I can tell, Davis had only small roles throughout her career.  Rating: Fair (66)


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