AFI Catalog of Feature Films
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Director: Norman Jewison (Dir)
Release Date:   16 Dec 1987
Duration (in mins):  104
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Cast: Cher  (Loretta Castorini)
  Nicolas Cage  (Ronny Cammareri)
  Vincent Gardenia  (Cosmo Castorini)

Summary: Italian-American widow Loretta Castorini walks to her bookkeeping jobs in New York City. That evening, at Grand Ticino restaurant, businessman Johnny Cammareri nervously proposes to the thirty-seven-year-old Loretta, who insists he bend on one knee and present her with his pinky ring. However, she warns that her previous marriage was cursed with bad luck because there was no proper ceremony. Loretta then drives Johnny to the airport, where he is leaving to visit his dying mother in Sicily, Italy. While Loretta insists on setting a wedding date, Johnny is unsure when he will return, but they agree to wed in exactly one month. Before getting on his plane, Johnny gives Loretta the business card of his estranged brother, Ronny Cammareri, whom he wants to invite to the wedding. Returning to her family home in Brooklyn with a bottle of champagne, Loretta tells her father, Cosmo, about the engagement, but he warns that Loretta is unlucky in love. Although she insists her luck will change if she has a proper ceremony, Cosmo is suspicious of Johnny and refuses to support the marriage. When Cosmo awakens his wife, Rose, to tell her the news, she is relieved to learn that Loretta does not truly love her future husband. The following day, Cosmo’s aged father walks his five dogs to a local cemetery and regales his comrades with family woes, since Cosmo still refuses to pay for the wedding. One friend chimes in that there will be a full moon that evening, and the elder Castorini declares that the lunar event will provoke romance. In the morning, Johnny telephones Loretta from his mother’s deathbed in Sicily and reminds her to find Ronny. However, Loretta is more concerned about Johnny’s failure to announce the marriage to his mother. Still, she telephones Ronny at the family business, the Cammareri Bros. Bakery, but is unable elicit his sympathy. She walks to the bakery and finds Ronny in the cellar, stoking the oven fires. Seething with rage, Ronny reports that his brother, Johnny, robbed him of his life and reveals his prosthetic left hand. Five years ago, Ronny was also engaged, but Johnny distracted him with a bread order, and Ronny accidentally ran his hand through a slicer. In turn, his fiancée left him for another man. Although Loretta points out that Johnny was not at fault, Ronny fumes that his brother should not be entitled to the same joy of marriage that he was denied. However, he agrees to talk to Loretta in his apartment above the bakery. There, Loretta cooks him a steak and reveals that her deceased husband was hit by a bus. Loretta argues that Ronny is not a victim, but rather a wolf that felt trapped by his pending marriage five years ago; he mangled his hand intentionally, just as a wolf would chew off its own foot, to break free from a snare. Ronny counters that Loretta is losing her head by marrying Johnny out of convenience instead of love. He knocks over the kitchen table, kisses Loretta passionately, and carries her to his bed to make love. Meanwhile, Loretta’s philandering father, Cosmo, presents his mistress, Mona, with a gold bracelet. Sometime later, at the Castorini home, Loretta’s uncle, Raymond Cappomaggi, reminisces about a moonlight courtship he witnessed years ago, between Cosmo and his sister, Rose. However, Cosmo dismisses the conversation, and Rose senses her husband’s infidelity. In the morning, Loretta awakens in Ronny’s bed but insists on going through with her marriage to Johnny. When Ronny declares his love, she slaps his face, ordering him to “snap out of it.” Ronny promises to stay away from Loretta on condition she join him at the Metropolitan opera that evening. After confessing her sins in church, Loretta sees her mother praying. Rose reveals her belief that Cosmo is having an affair. On her way home, Loretta stops at a salon to have her grey hair dyed and her face made up. She then purchases an evening gown and red stiletto-heeled shoes. That night, at Lincoln Center, Loretta and Ronny watch La Bohème while Rose dines alone at Grand Ticino restaurant. There, a regular customer named Perry is humiliated when his date throws her drink in his face. Rose sparks a conversation with Perry, invites him to join her table, and declares that men chase women because they fear death. As Perry walks Rose home arm in arm, they run into Cosmo’s father, who does not acknowledge his daughter-in-law but assumes she is having an affair. Although Perry propositions Rose, she remains loyal to Cosmo. Back at the Met, Loretta catches her father with his mistress, Mona. Cosmo is equally distressed to see his daughter with a man other than her fiancé. After the opera, Ronny walks Loretta home and reflects that she is unwittingly attracted to his wolf-like qualities; a safe marriage to Johnny will kill her bold spirit. Realizing that Ronny has led her back to his apartment, Loretta insists on staying true to Johnny because the wedding will reverse her bad luck. In response, Ronny declares that love is not an ideal of perfection, but rather a purveyor of pain, heartbreak, and ruin. Unable to restrain her passion, Loretta reaches out for Ronny’s prosthetic hand. Meanwhile, Johnny returns to New York City and takes a taxicab to Loretta’s home. Discovering Loretta missing, Johnny tells Rose that his mother miraculously recovered. Rose is still pondering her husband’s affair and asks Johnny why men chase women? In response, he refers to the Bible; ever since God took a rib from Adam to create Eve, men have felt a void near their hearts, and long to recover the loss. When Rose demands to know why men need more than one woman, Johnny confirms her belief that men fear death. The next morning, Loretta saunters home to receive the alarming news of Johnny’s return. Ronny arrives at the Castorini brownstone unexpectedly, and insists on meeting Loretta’s family as they convene at the breakfast table for oatmeal. When Rose asks Cosmo to stop seeing his mistress, he hits the table in anger, but agrees. Soon after, Johnny comes to the house and is shocked to see his brother; he assumes Ronny is there to “make peace.” Johnny announces that his mother revived as soon as she learned about the pending marriage, but now he cannot go through with the wedding because he is suspicious that the ceremony will provoke his mother’s death. Loretta is furious about the broken promise and grudgingly returns Johnny’s pinky ring. Just then, Ronny proposes to Loretta. She demands the ring back from Johnny, and declares her love for Ronny. Champagne glasses are filled for a toast to “the family.” 

Distribution Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
Production Company: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Inc.
[in association with] Star Partners, Ltd.
Director: Norman Jewison (Dir)
  Roger Paradiso (Unit prod mgr, New York crew)
  Lewis Gould (1st asst dir, New York crew)
  Gregory Palmer (2d asst dir, New York crew)
  Stephen Wertimer (2d asst dir, New York crew)
  Ann Petrie (2d unit dir, New York crew)
  Susan Fellows (D.G.A. trainee, New York crew)
  Bonnie Palef-Woolf (Prod mgr, Toronto crew)
  David McAree (1st ast dir, Toronto crew)
  Andrew Shea (2d asst dir, Toronto crew)
Producer: Patrick Palmer (Prod)
  Norman Jewison (Prod)
  Bonnie Palef-Woolf (Assoc prod)
Writer: John Patrick Shanley (Wrt)

Subject Major: Courtship
  Family relationships
Subject Minor: Bakers and bakeries
  Breach of promise
  Death and dying
  Italian Americans
  Long-lost relatives
  Love affairs
  New York City
  New York City--Brooklyn
  Proposals (Marital)

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The American Film Institute is grateful to Sir Paul Getty KBE and the Sir Paul Getty KBE Estate for their dedication to the art of the moving image and their support for the AFI Catalog of Feature Films and without whose support AFI would not have been able to achieve this historical landmark in this epic scholarly endeavor.
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