See This or Die: Director Liz W. Garcia on “A Walk on the Moon”

07.13.15 2 years ago
Our weekly feature in which a writer answers the question: if you could force your friends at gunpoint to watch one movie or TV show what would it be?

Haven't seen “A Walk on the Moon?” Come closer, so I can smack you. It's a smack for your own good, like the one Cher gave Nicholas Cage in “Moonstruck.” Haven't seen “Moonstruck?”  We need to break up. It's you.

“A Walk on the Moon” is not just a gorgeous film about a 1960s housewife's sexual awakening set against the backdrop of Woodstock — it was directed by the President of the United States, Tony Goldwyn. What CAN'T he do?

Pearl (Diane Lane) and her husband Marty (Liev Shrieber) are parents to petulant, adolescent Alison (Anna Paquin) whom they conceived… wait for it, kids, because this is the educational part of my piece… as teens the first time they had sex because they didn't know about birth control. The film begins in 1969, as the three of them plus little brother set off for a family camp in the Poconos for a respite from the heat of New York City. Liev is forced to return to the city on weekdays to bring home the bacon, which means sweating in a very revealing tanktop while fixing televisions with his anachronistically big muscles. (I love a film with full command of the cinematic language, a great soundtrack, and an healthy dose of man-candy.) But in spite of his muscles, Liev's boring. He makes Dad jokes. He wears his pants up high and he is, for goodness sake, the only man Diane Lane has ever had sex with.

Of course, no man would stand a chance next to The Blouse Man. And no man other than Viggo Mortensen could carry the moniker 'Blouse Man' and retain the sort of paint-peeling smoldering sexuality that he wields throughout this film (to say nothing of his nuanced, stunning performance, which I guess I'm saying next to nothing about. But don't we all assume such a performance from Viggo?) The Blouse Man rolls into family camp in his  hippie van-cum-traveling blouse boutique. He is flirtatious, his fashions are youthful, he's an itinerant gypsy with a painful Vietnam-related backstory who embodies the change happening just outside of Diane's small world. And he sets his gaze upon her, recognizes her beauty as it transcends her everymom identity, and she is awakened. In awakening to sex, she is awakened to counter culture, and thusly, to the 'counter' story of what her life could have been had a teenage pregnancy not written it all in stone.

Here's great screenwriting (by Pamela Grey) for you: the climax of the film, where your heroine's want (freedom) collides with her need (to be her true self in her family), is set at Woodstock. Diane sneaks out to the festival with Viggo. Her daughter sneaks out with her new teenage friends. Richie Haven's live version of “Freedom” plays over intercutting between the two women. At first consideration, this may seem too literal a choice of song. But it's not. It's perfect and serves the film in form and content. Form: the driving, hypnotic tempo compliments the tension of the intercutting. Haven's growling voice brings to the surface the subtextual rage — the rage of the counterculture against the war, Pearl's rage about her lost potential, her daughter's rage at her mother's betrayal. Content: 'Freedom, oh, freedom /sometimes I feel like a motherless child.' As the inevitable comes to fruition, and daughter's desire for freedom collides with mother's desire for freedom, i.e. as want collides with need, the lyrics blossom into full meaning: how does one reconcile one's desire for autonomy with one's consideration for family, for society? Is true freedom as exhilarating as a walk on the moon, and also as lonely?

Liz W Garcia is a writer & director whose movie “The Lifeguard” premiered at Sundance in 2013 and the co-founder of Womenscribes.com, a mentoring Organization for female a spring screenwriters.

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