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Review: Changing times captured in 'Walk on the Moon'

April 1, 1999
Web posted at: 1:29 p.m. EST (1829 GMT)

By Reviewer Paul Clinton

(CNN) -- The summer of 1969 was the summer of love, Woodstock, and the Apollo 11 landing on the moon. It was also a time of military war in Vietnam and a time of cultural war on U.S. streets, as Americans protested that controversial conflict.

In the film "A Walk on the Moon," these momentous events all become a backdrop for the personal drama facing a beautiful young housewife and mother named Pearl Kantrowitz. Played to perfection by Diane Lane, Pearl is experiencing an intense longing for what might have been.

When Pearl became pregnant at 17, her dreams were put on hold in order to raise a family and "do the right thing." Now, 14 years and another child later, Pearl finds herself strangely unfulfilled.

Theatrical preview for "A Walk on the Moon"
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Paul's Pix: "A Walk on the Moon"
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Fulfillment aside, every summer the family goes to the Catskill Mountains, to Dr. Fogler's Bungalows, a place where time has been set in amber. Keeping kosher and visits from the ice cream truck and the knish man are the main activities for the middle-class Jewish families at the Bungalows, seeking relief from their hot city homes.

Affair shatters set-in-stone society

But the fossilized atmosphere is shattered when Pearl begins an affair with a hippie (Viggo Mortensen) working as a travelling salesman. The affairs sweeps her, along with her mother-in-law, played wonderfully by Tovah Feldshuh, her daughter, played by Academy Award winner Anna Paquin, and her young son, into turmoil.

Pearl's husband (Liev Schreiber) is a devoted mate and father who repairs TVs for a living, and can only join his family in the Catskills during weekends.

He gave up his boyhood ambition of going to college when Pearl became pregnant. But he figured the good outweighed the bad, since he wound up with such a wonderful family. So when he discovers his wife is having her own private sexual revolution, his reaction threatens to tear the family apart beyond repair.


"A Walk On The Moon" is a heartfelt, lovely character study which explores the meaning of love in a time when love and sex were becoming interchangeable. It was also a time when the rights of individuals were seen by many as more important then responsibility to ourselves or our families. "Tune in, turn on and drop out," was the mantra of many.

I loved the way Pearl's inner journey is mirrored by her 14-year-old daughter's struggles to become a woman at a time when the definition of womanhood was changing so radically. They are both struggling to grow up.

Film mostly delivers

Of course, this film isn't perfect. Huge chunks of emotional development between characters are glossed over here. But for the most part this movie delivers.

In his directorial debut, actor Tony Goldwyn has carved out a provocative and poignant story that is worth seeing by everyone. This is also the first film for screenwriter Pamela Gray, and a very impressive debut it is.

"A Walk On The Moon" was her film thesis at the University of California at Los Angeles and won numerous awards. Her second feature, "Fifty Violins" is currently shooting in New York City starring Meryl Streep.

Overall, "A Walk On The Moon," which was produced by Dustin Hoffman's production company, is a hopeful story about two people unsure of the future and their place in it, but they are willing to try to live it -- together. To paraphrase Bob Dylan, "times they were a-changin'," and the times did change, but the nature of love hasn't changed one iota.

"A Walk On The Moon" opened in Los Angeles and New York on Friday, March 26 and is expanding to nationwide release on Friday, April 2. The film is rated R with a running time of 106 minutes.

Astronaut-artist Alan Bean still reaching for the moon
October 5, 1998
Cold War Knowledge Bank: Vietnam

Official 'Walk on the Moon' page
Miramax Films
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