Laugh Away Resentment With An Oscar Winner: Moonstruck (1987) A Life-Changing Life Lesson From A Hilarious LOL Comedy
The Greatest Special Effects Feat
I rate movies -- all movies -- based on how funny they are. In a world with as much tragedy and hurt as ours, sometimes we need to veer toward the lighthearted and comical to find relief. This is why I’ve made it my mission to find and promote those movies that bring joy. Hence, I tend to avoid most heavy drama, horror, or ultra-violent movies. Fortunately, the number of films that fall under the "comedy" category far exceed what can possibly be watched in one lifetime, even if one is a dedicated film critic. Most documentaries, animated movies, teen flicks, romances, and sci-fi fantasies fall under "comedy," at least in the Shakespearian sense, that is, they suggest a happy ending.
But the real treasure is the "Laugh Out Loud" (LOL) comedy. Hence, my rating system ranks movies on what I consider to be the greatest special effects feat of all: making somebody laugh repeatedly.
This is why a five :-) :-) :-) :-) :-) rating is a movie that can be watched an indefinite number of times. These are the classics, the favorites. They gratify. They make you laugh in the same places year after year even though you already know the joke, and they don't get old.
A four :-) :-) :-) :-) rating is a movie that can be watched one more time. It's a solid, amusing movie, but the laughs diminish with a repeat viewing, and there is risk of fatigue.
A three :-) :-) :-) rating is a movie that was worth watching once, but there is no interest in watching it again. It was pleasurable, it entertained sufficiently, it's just not capable of sustaining a repeat viewing. Most good movies fall in this category.
A two :-( :-( rating is a movie that was not worth watching. It either was not well made, not well acted, lacked cohesiveness, lacked a story, lacked a message and/or was internally inconsistent, forced or tedious. It wasted my time.
A one :'-( rating is a movie that was insulting or reprehensible in some way: mean-spirited, misogynistic, racist, cruel. It stole joy out of my life; it gets no review!
A 0 rating is a movie that I have not watched and have no interest in watching because I would probably give it a one :'-( rating based on all available evidence: previews, film reviews, and discussions. Life is too short.
Using this rating system to choose a laugh out loud, five :-) comedy that additionally provides a powerful insight into the human psyche, gives us:
What is Resentment?
Moonstruck (1987) is a comedy directed by Norman Jewison and written by John Patrick Shanley about Loretta Castorini (Cher), a widow who falls in love with her fiancé’s brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage), when she invites him to her wedding.
The movie provides us with this wonderful Life Lesson:
Let go of old resentments: You’ll feel better.
An exquisite scene that depicts in its truest, rawest form, what resentment feels like is when the two eventual lovers meet for the first time. Loretta comes down to the ovens of Ronny’s bakery to invite him to her wedding. Nicolas Cage, as Ronny, delivers a beautiful, beautiful, performance that summons to life the feelings of rage, injustice, and humiliation that is resentment. Although the words by themselves do not do justice to the virtuosity delivered in the film, this is that scene:
Movie Scene #1:
Ronny: “You’re going to marry my brother Johnny … I have no life.”
Loretta: “Excuse me?”
Ronny: “I have no life. My brother Johnny took my life from me … And now he’s getting married. He has his. He’s getting his. And he wants me to come. What is life? … They say ‘bread is life.’ And, and I bake bread, bread, bread, and I sweat, and shovel this stinking dough in and out of this hot hole in the wall and, and I should be SO happy, huh, sweetie? You want me to come to the wedding of my brother Johnny? Where’s my wedding? … Do you know about me? Ok, nothing is anybody’s fault, but things happen. Look: This wood [his hand] is fake. Five years ago I was engaged to be married and uh, and Johnny came in here, and he ordered bread from me, and I said, ‘oh ok, some bread’ and I put my hand in the slicer and it got caught ’cause I wasn’t paying attention. The slicer chewed off my hand, and it’s funny ’cause when my fiancé found out about it, when she found out that I had been maimed, she left me for another man.”
Loretta: “That’s the bad blood between you and Johnny? … But that’s not Johnny’s fault.”
Ronny: “I don’t care! I ain’t no freaking monument to justice. I LOST MY HAND. I LOST MY BRIDE. JOHNNY HAS HIS HAND. JOHNNY HAS HIS BRIDE. YOU WANT ME TO TAKE MY HEARTBREAK, PUT IT AWAY, AND FORGET?”
Let It Go
Moments later, in the privacy of his apartment Loretta delivers her response. It’s the kick in the pants that Ronny needs to move beyond his past and start life anew:
Loretta: “What’s the matter with you? I mean, you think you’re the only one who ever shed a tear?”
This is the thunderbolt of understanding that one needs to move from self-pity to self-awareness. It says, yes, what happened in the past was bad, but you're still here. Isn't there something better you could do than pick at your wounds? As psychotherapist and author Mark Sichel writes, "living with resentment is like taking poison and hoping the other guy will get sick." He notes that resentment is a choice you make when you refuse to forgive, and refuse to let bygones be bygones, because you want to be "right". How do you let go of resentment? Simply by acknowledging that it is an addictive state of mind that you can stop indulging in by focusing on something positive instead. Letting go of resentment is a gift you give yourself, and it reaps many rewards. It is only when Ronny lets go of his brooding resentment, for example, that he is able to feel love again. And that is what letting go of resentment feels like: a heavy load is taken away and replaced by wide-eyed optimism about the new possibilities that suddenly emerge. Letting go of resentment releases you to love again, to be happy again. How's that for enlightenment?
The brilliance of this movie lies in the fact that this theme is repeated with other characters. Consider the scene where Loretta’s mother, Rose, is trying to understand and forgive her husband for taking up with another woman:
Movie Scene #2:
Rose (Loretta’s mother): “Why would a man need more than one woman?”
Johnny (Loretta’s fiancé): “I don’t know, maybe because he fears death.”
Rose: “That’s it. That’s the reason.”
Johnny: “I don’t know!”
Rose: “No. That’s it. Thank you. Thank you for answering my question.”
[Loretta’s father comes into the house after his date with another woman]
Rose: “Where you been?”
Cosmo: “I don't know, Rose. I don't know where I've been, and I don't know
where I'm going.”
Cosmo (to Johnny): “You'll have your eyes opened for you, my friend.”
Johnny: “I have my eyes open.”
Cosmo: “Oh yeah? Well, stick around. Don't go on any long trips.”
Johnny: “I don't know what you mean.”
Cosmo: “I know you don't. That's the point. I'll say no more.”
Johnny: “You haven't said anything!”
Cosmo: “And that's all I'm saying.”
Rose: “I just want you to know no matter what you do you’re going to die, just like everybody else.”
Cosmo: “Thank you Rose.”
Rose: “You’re welcome.”
In the above scene, Loretta’s mother is teaching us how to not feel resentment in the first place: by trying to empathize in order to understand what the problem is, and immediately trying out a solution. If you watch the film, you’ll get to see how Rose gets Cosmo to agree to stop seeing the other woman. It is a wonderful scene in a movie full of wonderful scenes.
It’s not enough to say that I highly recommend this film. I urge you to see it. It will delight and amuse, and may even have a positive effect on your life. The story in Moonstruck is intricate; it reminds us that life is complicated, but that knowing what makes us happy is not. You won't go wrong with a laugh out loud five :-) comedy.
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