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Giant Leap for Woman

 


What happened to not yet middle-aged, thirty-something women in the mid- to late Sixties? Where and how did they find their place and make their peace with the turbulent decade? A Walk on the Moon takes a sentimental, heartfelt look at one such woman and offers very honest answers. 

Based on first-time screenwriter Pamela Gray's masters project, A Walk on the Moon follows the Kantrowitz family on their 1969 summer trek from New York to the Jewish Catskills. Housewife Pearl (Diane Lane), her two children and mother-in-law Lillian (Tovah Feldshuh) plan to stay for the summer, while Pearl's husband Marty (Liev Schrieber) commutes on the weekends.  

Family strains surface in the relative quiet of Catskills. Pearl grows dissatisfied with her safe life as a homemaker. During one of Marty's extended stays in New York, she meets "blouseman" Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen), one of the peddlers who visits the vacation community during the week. Tall, blond, and unbelievably kind and sexy, Jerome's free spirit that changes Pearl's life. On the night Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, Pearl succumbs to her desire for something more than safe and embarks on a new path with Jerome.  

Meanwhile, teen-age daughter Alison (Anna Paquin) experiences her own growing pains. Product of a fairly sheltered life, she begins to experiment with how far she can and should go with boys. Mother's and daughter's worlds collide at Woodstock with far-reaching repercussions for the family.  

Diane Lane brilliantly conveys Pearl's conflicting emotions -- sometimes without ever saying a word. Her eyes express the pain of one who married far too young and found herself smothered in love. The heartbreaking dignity Schrieber brings to the role of the betrayed Marty perfectly complements Lane's performance. 

As the blouseman, Mortensen provides the movie's driving force. He transforms his role as sex object into something both erotic and tender. 

A Walk on the Moon also serves as another step in Paquin's development as an actress. In a role worlds apart from Hurlyburly's whorish teen, Paquin creates an utterly believable portrait of a young woman coming into her own. And Feldshuh gives a very realistic, non-stereotypical performance in what in less skilled hands would prove a thankless role. 

Every inch of this movie rings true. Although shot in Quebec, the Kantrowitz's bungalow colony achieves the look and feel of the Catskills. Contemporary tracks by Joni Mitchell, the Jefferson Airplane, Jesse Colin Young, the Grateful Dead and Bob Dylan, and a completely on-target re-creation of Woodstock perfectly capture the movie's moment in time.  

So much has been written about the Sixties, it would be easy to dismiss A Walk on the Moon as just another flash to the past. It's not. By staring squarely down the roads not taken -- and facing the consequences of the choices each character makes, novice director Tony Goldwyn created a movie that should not be missed. 

Joan Fuchsman

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