On Dec. 18, 1987, MGM unveiled Norman Jewison’s romantic comedy Moonstruck in theaters, where it would go on to gross $80 million. The film nabbed six Oscar nominations at the 60th Academy Awards, winning best actress for Cher’s performance, best supporting actress for Olympia Dukakis’ role and screenplay for John Patrick Shanley’s script. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:

Deck the halls and crack open the eggnog. The already impressive yuletide movie season has hit new heights with the arrival of Norman Jewison’s Moonstruck.

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A romantic comedy that doesn’t skimp in either department, Jewison’s celebration of The Family, as captured by the pen of screenwriter John Patrick Shanley, expertly weaves the spell of a Capra or a Lubitsch. With its universal appeal, expect MGM to reap the lion’s share of box-office cheer.

Cher, in her most confident performance to date, is a delight as Loretta Castorini, a dowdy widow who lives with her colorful Italian-American par ents in Brooklyn and is engaged to be married to Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), a man she has resigned herself to live with but does not love.

While her fiance is off in Italy to nurse his dying mother, Loretta is instructed to help mend the “bad blood” between Johnny and his only brother, Ronny (Nicolas Cage), a hot-headed baker who likes to soothe his troubled soul by listening to opera in his apartment above the family business.

Loretta quickly realizes she’s hitching her affections up to the wrong Cammareri, as she falls head over heels for her prospective brother-in-law and undergoes a Cinderella-like transformation in the process.

While Cher absolutely glows in the Oscar-worthy role, bringing to her character a dignified vulnerability, director Jewison is not afraid to move the spotlight around. Each and every member of this first-rate ensemble is allowed to shine accordingly, particularly stage actress Olympia Dukakis, a major find as Cher’s world-weary, self-styled Mama; Vincent Gardenia as her philandering father, a man who unwinds by singing along to Vicki Carr’s “It Must Be Him”; Julie Bovasso (who made her film debut playing John Travolta’s mother in Saturday Night Fever) as Loretta’s giving Aunt Rita; and, of course, Nicolas Cage in the most appealing performance of his career.

Shanley’s remarkable script is the film’s ultimate star, vividly and authentically bringing the characters to three-dimensional life through the idiosyncratic rhythms of their language. Detecting an operatic feel in the work, Jewison has paced his film accordingly, building the proceedings to a hilarious crescendo in the Castorini kitchen.

Moonstruck‘s winning ways extend to its technical credits, with British cinematographer David Watkin (who won an Academy Award for his lens work in Out of Africa) evoking an idealized Manhattan thought to exist only in Woody Allen movies.

The mood is further enhanced by a dreamy score by composer/arranger Dick Hyman, a regular Allen contributor, and ace production designer Philip Rosenberg’s airy, comfortable sets. Also effective is Lofti Travolta’s ethereal choreographing of a sequence from Puccini’s La Boheme, staged at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House.

All of which has been constructed around an omnipresent full moon, hovering over the Manhattan skyline like a beacon of hope. It’s a fitting visual signature for this wonderful motion picture, destined to be around for many lunar cycles to come. — Michael Rechtshaffen, originally published on Dec. 9, 1987.

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