Paper Moon (1973)

Paper Moon Movie Review

Paper Moon Movie Review

Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and starring Ryan O’Neal and wonderful Tatum, Paper Moon is a 1973 comedy drama film and one of the finest ever films set in the amiable decade of the 1930s.

It tells the story of con man Moses who meets Addie at her mother’s funeral and has to take her to her aunt’s home. Along the way they steal together and form a beautiful bond. This story is typical for screwball comedies of the period it depicts. It is rather simplistic, but executed perfectly with a sense of excitement and charm all the way. The beginning perfectly introduces you to the characters and the finale is one of the most touching and endlessly satisfying conclusions. It perfectly wrapped it up with a lot of style, superb final line and great camera work. If I have a flaw here, it is that the plot is sometimes too action oriented and it somehow loses its steam in the second half after the fantastic first one. But it quickly rebounds with terrific ending.

The characters are wonderfully developed thanks to some excellent character development at work here. Moses is excellent as this deceiving, but lovable man and his constant bickering and irritating nature lends to much of the movie’s humor. As for Addie, she is of course the star here with some excellent quotes and a superb performance from Tatum. She is such a realistically portrayed child with a lot of charisma, charm and perfect comic timing. And the relationship between the two is warm, but grounded with never a cheesy moment. But I have to give a shout out to Trixie as she is the standout supporting player here. What a terrific character! She is very refreshing for her redneck and stupid attributes and those provide many humorous moments in the film. Especially her laughing scenes and her accent, all of which ridiculous and super funny.

All those characters are amazingly depicted as the actors all did a fantastic job. Madeline Kahn brought the hilarious character of Trixie perfectly to life with an extraordinary performance. But this is Tatum O’Neal‘s show and she steals every scene she is in. She gave such a nuanced, grounded and professional performance that it is such a miracle that a 10 year old child can be such an amazing actress. It is a shame she never repeated that and kind of disappeared after this role. She got her naturally deserved Oscar for the role and this is definitely one of the finest child performances ever in film history. However, Ryan O’Neal gave a so-so performance and her daughter certainly stole his thunder which is insane. He sometimes was great, especially in the irritated mode where he was believable, but he was not as believable in the angry mood as well as the serious one. He gave an annoyingly polarizing performance and he is the biggest problem the movie never overcomes because I never bought his face in this period as well which was problematic as he is the protagonist.

Now, the humor. It is beautiful with a lot of hilarious and wonderfully charming moments that bring a smile to your face and at times even true laughter. And it is perfectly in line with the period’s comedies and I only wish there was more of it in the movie as it kind of went down dramatic road as it progressed. What also makes it believable and charming is its terrific sense of what 1930s and those films should look and especially feel like which can be attributed to the amazing directorial work from Peter Bogdanovich. He did a phenomenal job, perfectly tying everything together in a smooth pace. Paper Moon benefits from a great attention to detail which wonderfully brought this charming period to life.

It also has that imminent sense of wonder and excitement along with the charming essence of it. But the cinematography is absolutely stunning with a phenomenal camera work and many shots that are absolutely breathtaking. The stark black-and-white scenery is startling and especially the ending is beautifully shot. It lifts the movie to a whole new level.  The tone is deftly handled and the shift from comedy to drama feels natural. The choice of songs is also fantastic, again adding to that 1930s feel. And the dialogue is great with a lot of highly memorable lines.

With superb lines, beautiful cinematography, lovable characters, deft tone and script, incredibly touching finale and a fantastic acting from Tatum O’Neal who provides one of the finest child performances ever, Paper Moon is an utter delight from start to finish and although it’s at times too action oriented and Ryan’s performance is polarizing, it hugely benefits from Bogdanovich’s stellar direction, a great attention to detail, bringing to life 1930s beautifully, breathtaking imagery and a charming story with very endearing characters. It is undoubtedly one of the best films set in this period.

Rating – 4,5

Posted in 1970s, 1973, Comedy, Drama, FILM DECADES and tagged , , , , , .

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