Film / A Walk on the Moon

A 1999 drama film directed by Tony Goldwyn and taking place in the summer of 1969.

Pearl Kantrowitz (Diane Lane) married Marty Kantrowitz (Liev Schreiber) at 17, and they started their family quite young. They are just another lower-middle class Jewish family from Brooklyn coming up to a bungalow colony in Sullivan County, New York for the summer. After Pearl asks Marty why they do this every summer upon their daughter Alison (Anna Paquin) kvetching about it on the drive up, she laments with the other wives and mothers about how she missed out being young and carefree.

Pearl is presented with the opportunity to finally not do the right thing, and goes for it in spades with the blouse salesman Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen). Everyone is getting hepped up for the moon landing, Woodstock is about to take place, Marty has to fix everyone's television sets in time for the big event so he can only come up on weekends and has more work to do than usual and Alison has just come of age, all while Pearl tries to keep the affair hidden from Marty.

This film provides examples of:

  • Artistic License Astronomy:
    • While the Apollo 11 moon landing date is correct— July 20, 1969— the moon was just six days old on that date and would have set by 11PM on the night of the landing. About half of the moon would've been visible from that part of the world but they show a full moon clearly visible in the sky.
    • Also, when everyone is watching the moon landing, the TV shows the moon's surface as the ship lands. There's no way people could've seen this footage until after the crew came back to Earth.
  • Artistic License History:
    • With dashes of Artistic License Geography and as well, in that while the timing is right for Woodstock (August 1969) the location was Bethel, New York. The exact town in Sullivan County where the bungalow colony is located is never really alluded to, probably for this reason.
    • A great deal of music featured in the film was by artists who performed at Woodstock, or were asked to perform there, and most of the songs were written and released prior to the summer of 1969. Except for two Grateful Dead songs which are temporal goofs; the song "Ripple" wasn't written until 1970 and "Uncle John's Band" wasn't released until the very end of 1969.
  • Auto Erotica: Subverted during the awkward sex scene between Pearl and Marty in the car, that shows what a Creature of Habit he is for the most part. Then played straight with Walker on his bus.
  • Borscht Belt: the setting of the movie. There is also a brief scene with all the couples watching a stand-up comic, but Borscht Belt comedy is not central to the plot.
    Borscht Belt Comic: Now I want to invite you all up on the floor to dance, because it's my turn to laugh!
  • Cultural Rebel: Myra becomes one after Alison's influence:
    Myra: I can't go to Woodstock, it's on Shabbas!
    Alison: Then we'll leave before Shabbas!
    Myra: I won't be able to touch money.
    Alison: I'll buy things for you!
    Myra: I can't rip toilet paper!
    Alison: I'll rip it for you! [beat] That's all I have to do, right?
  • Daddy's Girl: Alison. It doesn't seem overtly so at first, but she takes his side and seems to show a lot of disdain for her mother and love/favor for her father as the movie wears on.
  • Doting Parent: Marty. He's an extremely hard-working father who clearly loves his children.
  • Foreshadowing: While confiding in her friend, Pearl laments about being a whole different person given that she married young and missed out on her adolescence, she does becomes a different person after having an affair with Walker.
    • During a game of Mah-Jong, Pearl's friends warn her about teenagers smoking marijuana, later Pearl smokes marijuana with Walker.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar:
    • Or at least past the Kantrowitzes' young son. "You can do Chuck when you get older!"
    • "We should do Chuck differently this time!"
  • Hormone-Addled Teenager: Alison, practically to the point of Flanderization. Ross as well.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Or possibly Easily Forgiven; while the affair brings unrest to the Kantrowitz household and Marty says he wants to leave Pearl after learning of the affair, they end up not divorcing and agree to start anew.
  • Kick the Dog: Arguably the turning point of the film when Pearl starts sleeping with Walker, Marty's the dog. Doubles as the Moral Event Horizon, in that it gets hard to view Pearl as a protagonist you want to root for in contrast to the hard-working and dutiful father and husband that Marty is.
  • Matzo Fever: Walker. Come on, why else does he make a point of selling women's clothing at resorts populated by primarily Jewish communities?
  • Momma's Boy: Marty, particularly since he had to look out for his mother and provide for her after his father and walked out on them. He only subverts this trope once, in a fit of rage in the middle of the night.
  • Jewish Mother: Subverted with Pearl in that she walks on the wild side, and basically leaves care of her young son to her mother-in-law and lets Alison fend for herself for the most part. Played straight with Lillian, an overprotective Jewish Grandmother.
  • Nice Jewish Boy:
    • Ross, contrary to what Marty thinks.
      Marty: There is no such thing as a nice sixteen-year-old boy.
    • Marty plays this trope fairly straight as well.
  • Parental Abandonment: Mentioned briefly by Lillian, that Marty's father walked out on them when he was a preteen.
  • Precision F-Strike: Alison delivers one to Pearl when she yells at her for supposedly going all the way with Ross. She insists she doesn't have to listen to Pearl because her affair screwed up everyone's lives.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The shy and Orthodox Myra is the Blue Oni to Alison's secular, free-spirited Red Oni.
  • Shotgun Wedding: Pearl and Marty's marriage, and the basis for the film.
  • Skinny Dipping: In one scene this briefly happens while people are swimming with their families.
  • Teen Pregnancy: As mentioned frequently in the movie, Pearl was 17 when Alison was born which resulted in Pearl growing up fast and missing out on her younger years.
  • Truth in Television:
    • The subculture of New York City Jewish families of the 1950s and 60s packing up a smaller version of their household and living in bungalow colonies in Sullivan and Orange counties is accurately depicted in this film. It was a common practice at the time, when air travel was expensive and uncommon, and families wanted to escape the heat and crowding of the city. This led to the Catskills to be dubbed the Borscht Belt, or the Jewish Alps.
    • Right before Alison and Ross have their first kiss, he tells her of how a friend cut the tip of his finger off on the meat slicer at a deli to avoid getting drafted for Vietnam. Several young men did things like this to be declared medically unfit for military service. Alison suggests Ross burn his draft card, which he says would result in arrest.
  • Tampon Run: Alison and Myra shopping for pads and becoming very flustered and derpy once the boys come into the store, hiding the boxes behind their backs or kicking them under the shelves.
  • Tsundere: Alison to Ross, then Marty to a lesser extent after he learns of the affair. Both are Type B.
  • Waterfall Shower: Diane Lane and Viggo Mortensen get it on under a waterfall.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Pearl cheats on Marty with Walker.