In Moonstruck, Loretta Castorini (Cher) is an Italian-American woman in her late thirties who believes that bad luck is responsible for the death of her first husband. She’s given a a second chance at matrimony with Johnny Cammareri (Danny Aiello), a buttoned up mama’s boy who proposes to her then hops on a plane to go see his dying mother in Italy. Loretta and Johnny’s relationship is more like a mother and son or a couple whose passion has waned instead of one about to begin their lives together. She is constantly reminding him to take care of himself (don’t eat the oily fish before your plane ride, wear your hat, etc.), but there is no passion there. While he’s away, he makes her promise to reach out to his estranged brother Ronny (Nicolas Cage), who Loretta has never met, and convince him to come to their wedding, despite the bad blood between the two brothers.
The first glimpse we get of Ronny Cammareri is of his sweaty, tattooed back. Lean muscles are on full display in a sleeveless shirt as he answers Loretta’s phone call, barks out his words, and hangs up on her. THIS creature is straight-laced Johnny’s brother?
Loretta marches herself down to the bakery where Ronny works and finds him there in the basement by the oven, surrounded by bricks and bread, soaked with sweat and hair going in all directions, the complete opposite of Johnny and, seemingly, the woman standing in front of him.
It’s instantly apparent that THIS is what Loretta needs. She’s only in her thirties and full of life, but aging herself with her prim hairstyle and the mothering of her bland, middle aged fiancee. This man in front of her is full of energy and animal magnetism.
Despite the fact that he’s probably sweating all over that bread, there’s more matted chest hair on display than I would want to see at a first meeting, and he dramatically yells for his co-worker to get him “the big knife” so he can kill himself in front of Loretta to get back at his brother on his wedding day, I can’t say that I’m totally turned off.
He’s full of angst, but poetic in his expression of frustration and anger at his brother. He reveals that he was engaged to be married when Johnny distracted him as he was using the bread slicer and he cut off his own hand. The fiancee left him and he blames Johnny. Now, with the news of his brother’s marriage, he’s even more distraught. He rages, but shows a soul full of heartbreak and pain that brings his female co-workers to tears and causes Loretta to observe him with pity and follow him up to his apartment to talk it out.
She tells him that he is blaming Johnny for his problems for no reason and likens him to a wolf who was trapped in his former relationship and chewed off his own foot to get away from it. He counters that Johnny is the wrong man for her; she’s too smart for him. Their screaming match ends in a flipped table, a truly hot make out session, and etc…
Don’t get me wrong, Ronny Cammareri in his tight pants, carrying Loretta to his bed is pretty steamy, but the moment I realized I was mad for him was the moment where Ronny tells Loretta that he wants to take her to the opera.
Having grown up in a family of opera lovers, where waiting for dinner often involved lying on my stomach on the living room carpet lost in thought while Mimi belted out her troubles through tubercular lungs, Ronny’s appreciation for this dying art just gets me. So when he says “meet me at the Met,” and then shows up clean, hair tamed, and in a tux (if you don’t dress up for the opera, you’re doing it wrong), I’m a few palpitations away from a swoon. When he orders champagne and outs himself as an art lover by defending Chagall’s gaudy brush strokes with “well, he was having some fun,” I’m practically comatose on the couch.
Pre-tux and Puccini, Ronny Cammareri and his angsty, sweaty self may not be the obvious choice. He’s compared to and called an animal several times. He spends about a third of the film shouting. He sleeps with and falls in love with his brother’s fiancee after knowing her for only a few hours. Yet somehow he manages to be both the kind of guy you should avoid and the kind of guy you should run to. Ronny is not only a man of depth and passion, but one capable of stirring passion in others. He’s the kind of guy who makes you kick a can down the street like a giddy child and stop to marvel at the glow of the bella luna. The best things in life aren’t always simple and they aren’t always pretty. Sometimes they’re wolves without feet.