Viggo Mortensen

Viggo Mortensen
A Walk on the Moon 1999

There are many similarities between this movie and the first Dirty Dancing movie. Both involve up-tight, conservative families off for a summer of fun in a New Yorky style getaway location. Both involve a female visitor becoming fond of a male worker who is much more laid back and free. Where Dirty Dancing focussed just on the young girl and how she 'became a woman', this movie focusses on the mom (Diane Lane) and how she 'regains her childhood'.

The beginning of the movie is sort of clunky, setting the stage. The family with unappreciative kids. The husband who has become boring - he doesn't even want or understand a desire to try new sexual positions. He doesn't want to talk about what is going on at work or make waves there asking for more time off. The mom sees her daughter finding a voice, flirting with guys, doing all the things she missed out on herself. They set this up rather stick-figuredly, but I get and understand the general gist. Woman trapped in her role. See the Hours movie.

Then along comes the 'blouse man', Viggo. I have a big issue with how they managed this relationship. Viggo is a friendly hippy who sells blouses to the Jewish resort inhabitants. He's equally friendly to everyone. Sure, the mom craves affection. Sure, Viggo talks to her 2 or 3 times. But then she calls him up for sex - and he shows up to be her 'back door man' without a blink? He brings her right into his back room and, even though she's talking loudly about her family and obviously having second thoughts, all he says is "want me to stop?" It was very artificial feeling. And almost immediately we are launched into montages of them having sex everywhere - in streams, in dales, in fields. Sure, he gets her to jump into the water. But it really seems to be all about sex.

I'm all for sex, I think sex is great. But I think it really diminishes the story. The story began as a mom who was accused of "having no causes" and who missed out on her childhood of flirting. So as a result she goes out for lots of sex with a guy whose name she doesn't even know until they're halfway into it? Then then crank it into overdrive with a sequence of bizarre coincidences. The daughter, running off to Woodstock (which is very poorly replicated), sees her half naked mom kissing Viggo. Later, the mom is off chatting with Viggo when her young son is almost slain by wasps, and of course Viggo shows up to take care of the kid. And we top off with the contrived-and-tense scene of the betrayed dad having to thank Viggo for that work.

I think contrived is really the word that comes to mind for most of this. There are some really meaningful nuggets in here - the talk that mom and daughter finally have, where they both become more human for a while. The fact that the daughter wants to be "the wild teenager" and needs the mom to be a stable force in her life, even while the daughter says she hates the mom. The dad's hurt anger at being betrayed, and the fact that he has in fact been very disappointed with his life as well but did not act out as a result. The environment is also very realistic - I remember those styles of cabins, those types of pillows and decorations. The over-use of Yiddish sayings was a little much, but they were trying to bludgeon it into our heads that this was an ethnic group of people.

Even more contrived is the finale. The movie was very Hollywood - there really was little doubt that this is how it would end up.

On the positive side, the soundtrack here is just AMAZING and right on. Diane really does a good job with the script she was given, on showing the pulls and tugs in her life, her attempts to have something more and how she is pushed back into place at each turn. To be fair, the husband does say near the end that she COULD have pushed harder if she really wanted to, to make her needs known. But she was pushing hard already and was in return being pushed down into place. Is he really saying that it's her own fault for not pushing *really* hard? Isn't that what she in fact did with Viggo, just pushed hard for something she wanted? In any case, you do see that angst and desire for fun and desire to do the right thing all conflicting within Diane.

How about Viggo? Again, this script didn't really give him much to work with. How many lines does he really get? A few "this looks nice on you" lines, then he shows up to be a call-on-demand gigilo, then lots of scenes of sex. A few hokey lines about "here's the cool way to cure wasp stings", one or two lines about travelling across the US, and it's over. There was no construction of a relationship, no sharing of ideas, no melding of minds. No staring at the stars discussing infinity. I realize romance doesn't have to be esoteric. But if it was just about wham-bam sex, the story looses a lot of its meaning. It would have been SO much more gripping if he had dreams as well, and shared those dreams with her, and those dreams were incredibly similar. It would have meant something then, that they had considered running off hand in hand.

A nice watch, but many other movies tackle this same theme with a MUCH more realistic and involving storyline.

Viggo Mortensen

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