• Man In The Moon, The

    Released By: Twilight Time
    Released On: May 16, 2017.
    Director: Robert Mulligan
    Cast: Sam Waterston, Tess Harper, Gail Strickland, Reese Witherspoon, Jason London, Emily Warfield
    Year: 1991
    Purchase From Screen Archives

    The Movie:

    Call me a softie, but I am an absolute sucker for a good coming-of-age story, especially when it avoids the sentimental trappings inherent to the genre. Robert Mulligan's 1991 film, The Man In The Moon, is such a film; a wonderful and sometimes tearful look at young love, set in 1950's Louisiana.

    14 year-old Dani Trant (Reese Witherspoon in her film debut) lives with her older sister Maureen and her parents, Matthew and Abby (Sam Waterston and Tess Harper) in a modest country home outside of town. While Dani clearly remains in awe of her sister's experiences as she balances on the uncertain precipice of adulthood, her feelings of affection are only able to manifest themselves in mock hugging sessions with her pillow while a dreamy Elvis croons from a nearby record player. Adulthood is not all it's cracked up to be, though, as Maureen finds out; she's got a boyfriend who is pressuring her to go all the way, and a greasy potential father-in-law who tries to sweet talk his way into her pants at a local dance. The outlook is still a sunny one for the two girls, however, as they look toward their parents' relationship, a chance encounter that has blossomed into a loving family with another child on the way.

    The dynamic of the Trant household is changed suddenly, however, with the arrival of the Fosters; long-ago neighbours who are returning after trying to make a go of life in the big city. Dani is startled down at the swimming hole by the largely naked arrival of Court Foster (Jason London, in his theatrical debut), and reacts harshly, driving the older boy away. The connection between the Trants and the Fosters brings them back together, though, with Court taking an interest in the younger Dani, showing off his driving skills and winning smile to break down her angry facade. In turn, Dani falls for her new neighbour, determining that he will be her first kiss, a moment that falls short of magical in the swimming hole, when Court, frustrated by his arousal in the presence of the too-young-for-him girl, angrily chastises Dani for not knowing what she's getting in to.

    Dani, however, is nothing but persistent, snagging her first kiss from Court in an emotional moment where she declares her interest in knowing everything about him, and it seems that the awkward teenagers may end up together, even earning cautious praise from Matt. But in the wake of an accident, Court encounters the recently-available, beautiful and mature Maureen, sparking a passionate romance that drives the Trant sisters apart and threatens to destroy the peaceful family dynamic. As Dani struggles to make sense of the life around her, further tragedies befall the young girl that may force her to abandon her childhood innocence and grow up far more quickly than any child should have to.

    The Man In The Moon is certainly a film notable for it's "firsts"; and Jenny Wingfield's first written script is an accomplishment that she would arguably not match again. The opening of the film indicates that this is going to be a schmaltzy outing, but as it progresses, The Man In The Moon is anything but. Successfully addressing young love, adult relationships, and the stepping stones in between, Wingfield's script also takes us unexpectedly into the dark areas of the Trant family experience, examining the worries and breaking points of her characters, the betrayal between family members, and the unconsolable sudden loss of loved ones, without shying away from any of the harsh realities of life.

    Firsts aside for a moment, this was famed Director Robert Mulligan's last film, and he nails what I would assume to be the intention of the script like a true master, bringing out performances from the young and inexperienced cast and putting forth a less-is-more approach to the making of the film. Subtle movements keep the camera exactly where it needs to be, allowing the performers to tell Wingfield's story without getting caught up in fancy technique, but also building tension admirably where required. Back to the firsts again, it's the cast who do this film the most justice, with Witherspoon absolutely shining as Dani; her talent foreshadowing the accomplished actress she would later become. Jason London is already the Jason London who would appear in Dazed and Confused a few years later, utilizing that natural-born Southern Charm that makes him so endearing, and even Sam Waterston, who I generally don't have much use for, shows off some serious acting chops that were never on display during his tenure on Law And Order. A stunning supporting cast admirably contributes to the effort, making The Man In The Moon a fine example of the sum of the parts, a superb proving ground for new talent, and a prideful swan song for Director Mulligan.


    The Man In The Moon shows up on Blu-ray courtesy of Twilight Time in an AVC-encoded 1.85:1 transfer. Definitely an upgrade from the DVD, the picture quality here is generally solid with a healthy grain structure showing through in many places, and colours are vibrant for the most part. That being said, this isn't a transfer that's going to pop off of the screen, this is a soft-looking film which will appeal to some. Though the occasional flicker does pop up, as well as dirt, damage and debris, the overall transfer is clean and quite pleasant.

    English Audio is presented courtesy of an English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track with optional English Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, and it does a fine job of presenting a well-balanced dialogue and score that sounds stronger than your typical stereo track. Dialogue is consistently clear, and the range is adequate for the presentation with no evidence of distortion, hiss, or other anomalies. A Twilight Time staple, an Isolated Music Track is also available.

    Extra features here are limited to a Theatrical Trailer, the usual Twilight Time Interactive Catalogue, and insightful insert essay from Twilight Time's Julie Kirgo.

    The Final Word:

    A wonderful film with superb acting talent on display, The Man In the Moon receives a welcome upgrade from previous versions.

    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!

    Comments 2 Comments
    1. Scott's Avatar
      Scott -
      Nice review. I've always enjoyed this movie.
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      I was, as they say, pleasantly surprised.
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    Jack J

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