Monday, October 22, 2007

PAPER MOON: brilliant father-daughter road movie con artistry

trailer/clip | five and ten clip | Brattle series
There's an episode of THE SIMPSONS where the Simpson boys take up grifting and try running cons on everyone in town. They show up at Flanders's front door as bible salesmen, claiming that Ned's dead wife, Maude, had ordered a deluxe edition bible with his name printed on it before she'd been killed by an errant tee-shirt bazooka blast. Ned has a flash of recognition and wonders aloud at how the situation seems an awful lot like that movie PAPER MOON. Bart cries "abort" at this and he and Homer bail on the con.

Saw PAPER MOON tonight at the Brattle. I'd never seen it before. I'd known of the movie for many years, but until that SIMPSONS reference, never felt that it was a serious gap in my movies-watched-ology. It is a damn entertaining flick. Ryan O'Neal plays Moses Pray, a grifter posing as a door-to-door bible salesman, travelling the country roads of Depression-era Kansas. When he attempts to work an angle involving a young girl who's lost her mother, he ends up saddled w the responsibility of being her guardian. The girl, Addie, played by Tatum O'Neal, turns out to be just as stubborn and wily as her unwitting new mentor and quickly works her way into his schemes. Wacky fun ensues.

Also, a nice rudimentary how-to for some grifty action. If NINE QUEENS is an advanced level course then this would be a beginner one.

The Ryan-Tatum father-daughter dynamic on screen is a ton of fun to watch. Young Tatum is wonderfully willful, an old soul who delivers a powerful pouty stonewalling on demand. The way she disarms, outwits, and even outshines her mentor, repeatedly, is brilliant and hilarious.

Y'know, I never could've guessed this particular bit of cinematic deja vu would occur, but I hafta say, this film, in the flavor of the relationship and wacky misadventure shared by the outlaw and his precocious young ward, feels very much like an inspiration for Luc Besson's THE PROFESSIONAL. The connection between the two in PAPER MOON is more father-daughter than the out-of-sync lovers of Natalie Portman and Jean Reno in THE PROFESSIONAL, tho. Thankfully, cuz otherwise, that would be creepy.

Pretty nuts seeing little Tatum here and present-day Tatum playing the tattooed alcoholic wild child on RESCUE ME.

If you're in the mood for some snappy dialogue delivered by a pretty ultimate odd couple in a grifter road movie, well, you've gotta check this out. =)

Keep on keepin on~

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