March 5, 2001 -- "A Walk on the Moon" is a parable about a family in crisis, framed by two pivotal events in one of the most turbulent years of the last century, 1969. The story takes place in the center of that year, during Woodstock, a concert event that became emblematic of an entire generation, and during the first manned moon landing, a defining moment in human history.
At the center of the story is Pearl Kantrowitz (played by Diane Lane of "The Perfect Storm"), a young mother who feels like life is passing her by. Pearl and her children are spending the summer at a camp in the Catskills mountains of New York called Dr. Fogler's Bungalows, a camp catering to Jews. Her husband, Marty (Liev Schreiber of the "Scream" movies), who repairs televisions, drives back and forth to the camp on weekends. He has to work unusually hard because everyone wants their TV set working for the big moon landing on July 16, 1969.
The camp's isolated routine goes slowly on during the summer, interrupted only by some regular visitors from the outside world. Announcements herald their arrival over the loudspeaker: "The ice cream man is here," or "The knish (a thin rolled dough folded over a filling) man is here," or "The blouse man is here." The camp provides isolation from the non-Semitic world that is comforting to some, but Pearl finds the isolation stifling. The blouse man, Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen of "28 Days"), is young and handsome. Pearl finds him and his Bohemian lifestyle irresistible. She feels tied down by her family's conservative ways. Married since she was 17, and never having known another man but her husband, Pearl wants some freedom. She breaks loose and has an affair with the blouse man.
The effects of this affair on her family are devastating, Marty goes wild and their daughter, Alison (Anna Paquin of "Almost Famous"), is devastated. Even Marty's wise mother, Lilian (Tovah Feldshuh of "The Corruptor") doesn't seem to know how to put their broken marriage back together again. Just as the world was never the same after the summer of 1969, Marty and Pearl's marriage is never going to be the same again, either. Marty had been content with the way things were going (despite the fact that he, too, was unable to follow his dreams), but Pearl wasn't. Her discontent with the limitations of traditional, conservative values, in which women's roles were quite limited, foreshadows the women's liberation movement and reflects the incandescent liberalism of her daughter's generation.
In many ways the youth rebellion of the 1960s was similar to Pearl's rebellion of 1969. The youth culture of the Baby Boomers made a clean break from the stifling conformity of the 1950s. The movie argues, as do most liberals, that the world was better off because of this break. Conservatives, of course, wish they could turn the clock back to the right-wing comfort of the 1940s and 1950s. The break from conformity was not without its pain, as the movie suggests, but then the 1940s and 1950s were not without their own kind of pain, particularly if you happened to be black, or Japananese-American, or happened to be labeled a Communist sympathizer, or if you just couldn't stand conformity, like those belonging to the Beat Generation.
Director Tony Goldwyn, an actor who usually plays bad guys in movies (like the evil banker he played in "Ghost"), does a fine job with this film. Goldwyn was also an associate producer of this film, along with Dustin Hoffman and others. Goldwyn gets great performances from the actors and captures the spirit of the times. He uses actual concert recordings from Woodstock to help duplicate the feeling of the concert. Unlike most films about the 1960's, this film does not rely heavily on music to evoke a sense of time and place. Instead, it uses its characters to show the forces at work dividing the generations. Lilian is of the World War II generation and Marty is aligned with the same generation. Alison is a baby boomer and Pearl is caught between the conflicting values of these two powerful generations. This film rates a B.
I saw this film on DVD. The R-rated, region 1 DVD has an English, Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track with English subtitles for the hearing impaired. The image is in widescreen letterbox format with an aspect ratio of 1.85:1. Click here for links to places to buy this movie in VHS and/or DVD format, the soundtrack, books, even used videos, games and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.