Jewel-like in its mounting, THE MAN IN THE MOON is a superb, timeless film which can and should become part of the treasured trove of minimalist art films that live on in memory and experience.
The setting is idyllic--a sparsely populated area in rural Louisiana in the 1950s, a time and place where familial ties are stronger and dreams are more vivid and compelling than mundane concerns. Matthew Trant (Sam Waterston) is a hardworking, loving father whose wife Abigail (Tess Harper) is
very pregnant. Both are hopeful it will be a boy because they already have two daughters, 14-year-old Dani (Reese Witherspoon) and 17-year-old Maureen (Emily Warfield).
Their close friend Marie Foster (Gail Strickland) arrives, recently widowed, with her 17-year-old son Court (Jason London). The Trants assure her that they will do everything they can to help her make a go of the unpromising farm she has acquired. For her part, Marie is certain that with the help
of her caring and devoted son, she will survive.
Dani becomes very aware of Court and actually begins to court him, eagerly looking forward to being with him whenever he is free of his chores. Court, a gentle and sensitive young man, is aware of Dani's crush on him and is amused by it and by her. That is, until Maureen becomes aware of him and
he of her. While the young Dani is filled with the excitement and puzzlement of self and sexuality, it is to Maureen that she turns most often. After all, Maureen, a beauty, is adored by every boy in town and already knows how to kiss. "Teach me," urges Dani.
Court and Maureen fall in love and want to be together every moment that they can, which, of course, seriously cuts into Dani's time with him. She begins to feel abandoned, deprived of Court's special times with her and of Maureen's nurturing as confidante and mentor. Then a shocking tragedy
occurs and seems to orphan each of the sisters, leaving them without each other's solace. And, too, their own parents seem impotent in their yearning to help their daughters.
Robert Mulligan scores a directorial triumph in his eloquent helming of THE MAN IN THE MOON, which was written by Jenny Wingfield and is partly autobiographical. The elegiac musical score is by James Newton Howard and the veteran cinematographer Freddie Francis has superbly focused on the
intimate aspects rather than on grandiose panoramas, giving the whole an immediacy that is in keeping with the film's motif--self-discovery and awareness. Mention must be made, too, of the production design by Gene Callahan who, sadly, passed away four months after the film was completed. The
movie is dedicated to his memory.
We have yet to see a vehicle in which Sam Waterston does not excel. As patriarch of the Trant family, he offers a stellar portrait of a quiet man who loves and cares for his own with steadfast tenacity. In the role of Abigail, Tess Harper is a solid addition to the cast as caring mother and
pregnant wife. Outstanding, too, in this memorable film are Emily Warfield as the older sister, Jason London as Court and Gail Strickland as his beleaguered mother. Most of all, one will long remember Reese Witherspoon, who makes her feature film debut as Dani. In the film's pivotal role, she
offers a depth and emotional honesty that belies her young age.
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- Released: 1991
- Rating: PG-13
- Review: Jewel-like in its mounting, THE MAN IN THE MOON is a superb, timeless film which can and should become part of the treasured trove of minimalist art films that live on in memory and experience. The setting is idyllic--a sparsely populated area in rural L… (more)