A Walk on the Moon
directed by Tony Goldwyn
(Miramax, 1999)

It's summertime, but the livin' ain't easy, despite what Janis Joplin is intoning on the soundtrack.

It's 1969. Neil Armstrong is getting ready to take one small step for man, and Jimi Hendrix is warming up for Woodstock. But down the road at Dr. Fogler's Bungalows, trouble is brewing for the Kantrowitz crew.

Pearl and Marty's marriage is on the rocks -- rocks the size of Gibraltar. Pearl is feeling unfulfilled, and she catches herself looking wistfully at hippie hitchhikers she and her husband pass on their way to summer camp.

A Walk on the Moon is a slice of life film that's being promoted as one woman's rediscovery of passion during her summer vacation. Actually, it cuts much deeper than that.

Pearl is not only married, but has two children, one of them on the fringe of a young womanhood that Pearl never had. The resulting tension is unbearable, first for Pearl, then for all concerned when Pearl decides to return the flirtations of a traveling blouse salesman who brings his bus to Dr. Fogler's Bungalows.

This could be pretty one-dimensional, except that director Tony Goldwyn and screenwriter Pamela Gray have rounded out their Walk with enough period detail to make it a living document and enough humorous touches -- including possibly the worst house band on or off the record -- to keep their film from becoming mired down in the maudlin.

Making it all the more moving are insightful performances by Diane Lane as the frustrated homemaker and Liev Schreiber as her unsuspecting husband, a man so square he makes Lawrence Welk look like Jerry Garcia. Matching them stroke for stroke is Anna Paquin as their 14-year-old daughter, the reason for their marriage and the family member most likely to be devastated by their separation. Only Viggo Mortensen, as the blouse salesman who so moves Pearl, is unmoving.

A Walk on the Moon it may be, but it's pretty down-to-earth as well. This is one trip you won't want to miss.

[ by Miles O'Dometer ]

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