A Walk on the Moon

USA 1998

Reviewed by Nina Caplan


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York, 1969. Pearl and Marty Kantrowitz, with Marty's mother Lilian, take their kids - teenage Alison and young son Daniel - up to the Catskills resort where they spend every summer. Marty returns to his job as television repairman during the week, leaving Pearl to get on with the rebellious Alison and simmer over the 60s excitements she has missed because of her early marriage. When Marty gets stuck in the city, Pearl starts an affair with free-spirited resort employee Walker Jerome. Meanwhile, a boy called Ross becomes Alison's first boyfriend.

Lilian challenges Pearl about her infidelity and reminds her of Marty's sacrifices - he jettisoned science studies when she got pregnant - so she breaks with Walker. But when Marty can't bypass the Woodstock festival blockades, she goes to Woodstock with Walker, where Alison - there with Ross - spots her. Summoned by his mother, Marty confronts Pearl. She confesses her infidelity and Marty drives off enraged, returning unsuccessfully to snatch Daniel. An upset Alison suggests sex to Ross, running off in tearful rage when he counsels against it. She fights with her mother. Pearl visits Walker, who asks her to come away with him. They return to camp to find Daniel covered in wasp stings which Walker soothes. A bitter Marty arrives. When he leaves, Pearl bids goodbye to Walker. Alison makes up with Ross. Marty returns again, charmed by Pearl's present of a microscope, and they move towards a tentative reconciliation.


Just as the mock-quotidian title suggests, this affectionate comedy examines seemingly banal actions (infidelity, teenage rebellion) taking place in extraordinary times whose consequences, like the moon landing itself, are more significant than the actions themselves. 60s housewife Pearl is desperate to launch into the sexual experimentation of the times while her television-repairman husband Marty has sublimated his intellectual curiosity to the immediate needs of a family with two children to feed. While his career and her life have both fossilised, hippies occupy a parallel world: hitching on the highway as the luggage-laden Kantrowitzes drive out to their Catskills resort; wading naked into the resort's lake to the ineffectual, uncomprehending hostility of the residents. Resort employee Walker Jerome has a backwards name suggestive of freedom despite the unglamorous trappings of his campervan. He offers Pearl liberation in a tight tie-dye t-shirt, his wooden face and vacant smile making him a perfect recipient for her fantasies.

Teen actor cum debut director Tony Goldwyn (grandson of Sam Goldwyn) resists the temptation to mock Pearl's stolid, well-intentioned husband. Marty hides his feelings behind a jokey exterior but, unlike Walker, he has feelings to hide. Like the New York Jewish community summering in time-honoured fashion in the Catskills, his deceptively easy-going ethos is enclosed in moral barbed wire. He'll accept anything that doesn't threaten the family, but he sees his wife's infidelity as a reversal of the natural order.

It isn't just Marty who is marked by Pearl's discontent. Their mannered, graceless daughter Alison (prevented, by Anna Paquin's sensitive performance from degenerating into a caricatured adolescent) bears the brunt of her mother's hopes, but also of her envy, enjoying the liberating adolescence Pearl was deprived of. Pearl and Walker's affair parallels Alison and Ross' more innocent relations, but the competition between mother and daughter sizzles: Pearl's moués and mannerisms are a prettier, leaner version of Alison's, who is equally desperate to escape the passivity that comes with obedience. We voyeuristically watch the community watching the moonlandings and Pearl and Walker having colourful sex in the grey lunar light; Goldwyn slyly intercuts the enthusiastic applause for the astronauts with the couple's rather different performance. From this washed-out beginning, everything brightens progressively, peaking in the slow-motion hedonism and sunlit bodypaint of Woodstock. This time, the nominal voyeur is Alison, whose reaction - suggesting sex to Ross - only narrowly escapes repeating history after the shock of watching her mother try to escape it. The film is better at groups than at individuals: the Catskills community is lovingly drawn, the family unit convincing, but the personal dramas don't always bypass cliché. There are too many heartfelt sentences beginning with "Sometimes..." and the excellent 60s soundtrack is drowned out by the clunk of set-pieces slotting into place.


Dustin Hoffman
Tony Goldwyn
Jay Cohen
Neil Koenigsberg
Lee Gottsegen
Murray Schisgal
Pamela Gray
Director of Photography
Anthony Richmond
Dana Congdon
Production Designer
Dan Leigh
Mason Daring
Production Companies
A Punch Production in association with Village Roadshow Pictures/Groucho Film Partnership
Executive Producers
Graham Burke
Greg Coote
Josette Perrotta
Associate Producers
Lemore Syvan
Laura Gherardi
Production Executive
Jason Zelin
Production Co-ordinator
Danielle Boucher
Production Managers
Michel Chauvin
NY Crew, 2nd Unit:
Melissa Marr
Unit Managers
Jean-Yves Dolbec
NY Crew, 2nd Unit:
John Chamberlin
Location Managers
Catherine Dawe
NY Crew, 2nd Unit:
Alex Cohn
Assistant Directors
Pedro Gandol
Louise Evangeline Renault
Jean-Sébastien Lord
Julie Coulombe
Philippe Morin
Antoine Saito
Script Supervisor
France Lachapelle
Billy Hopkins
Suzanne Smith
Kerry Barden
Ann Goulder
Vera Miller
Elite Productions
Director of Photography
NY Crew, 2nd Unit:
Oliver Bokelberg
Camera Operators
Robert Stecko
François Daignault
Robert Guertin
Steadicam Operator
François Daignault
Digital Effects & Animation
C.O.R.E Digital Effects
Visual Effects Supervisor
Animation Director:
Bob Munroe
Effects Production Manager:
Lisa Bechard
Effects Production Co-ordinator:
Lisa Wyse
Effects Technical Director:
Ralph Sevazlian

Kelvin Kanagaraj
Digital Paint Artists:
Nick Hsieh
Alex Busby
Systems Administrators:
Costa Roussakis
Jesse Bradstreet
Special Effects
Antonio Vidosa
Louis Craig
Graphic Designer
Carl Lessard
Art Director
Gilles Aird
Peter Stratford
Costume Designer
Jess Goldstein
Key Make-up Artist
Lizane Lasalle
Key Hairstylist
Bob Pritchett
John Alagna
The Effects House
Duke Levine
Billy Novick
Kenny White
Paul Bryan
Ken Wittman
Deborah Henson-Conant
Shane Koss
Martin Brody
Dana Brayton
Billy Novick
Music Supervisor
Stephan R. Goldman
Music Co-ordinator
Vicki Arckoff
Music Editor
Patrick Mullins
Music Engineers
Dave Shacter
Michael Golub
Music Mixer
Dave Shacter
"More/Ti guardero nel cuore" by Marcello Ciorciolini, Norman Newell, Nino Oliviero, Riz Ortolani, performed by Bobby Darin; "The Name Game" by Lincoln Chase, Shirley Elliston; "Danke schoen" by Kurt Schwabach, Milt Gabler, Bert Kaempfert, performed by Wayne Newton; "Wishin' & Hopin'" by Burt Bacharach, Hal David, performed by Dusty Springfield; "Ripple", "Uncle John's Band" by Jerry Garcia, Robert Hunter, performed by Grateful Dead; "For Your Love" by Ed Townsend; "Sunlight" by Jesse Colin Young, performed by The Youngbloods; "Summertime" by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, DuBose Heyward, performed by Big Brother & The Holding Company; "What's New Pussy Cat" by Burt Bacharach, Hal David, performed by Tom Jones; "Today" by Marty
Balin, Paul Kantner, performed by Jefferson Airplane; "Embryonic Journey" by Jorma
Kaukonen, performed by Jefferson Airplane; "Kiss of Fire" by Lester Allen, Robert Hill, Angel Villoldo, performed by Georgia Gibbs; "Cactus Tree" by/performed by Joni Mitchell; "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" by Sandy Denny, performed by Judy Collins; "Strangers in the Night" by Bert Kaempfert, Eddie Snyder, Charles Singleton, performed by Wayne Newton; "Freedom" by/performed by Richie Havens; "The Fish Cheer and I Feel Like I'm Fixin' to Die Rag" by Joe McDonald, performed by Country Joe McDonald; "Subterranean Homesick Blues" by/performed by Bob Dylan; "White Bird" by David LaFlamme, Linda LaFlamme, performed by It's A Beautiful Day; "The Israelites" by Desmond Dekker; "When You're Smiling the Whole World Smiles with You" by Mark Fisher, Joe Goodwin, Larry Shay, performed by Dean Martin; "Follow" by Jerry Merrick, performed by Richie Havens
Sound Mixer
Claude La Haye
Re-recording Mixer
Dominick Tavella
Audio Post Co-ordinator
Danielle Capawanna
Supervising Sound Editor
Jeffrey Stern
Dialogue Editor
Sylvia Jessica Menno
Effects Editor
Jeffrey Stern
Supervising Editor:
Lisa J. Levine
LA, Editor:
Victoria Sampson
Brian Vancho
Ryan Collison
Georges Lara
Louis Bertini
Technical Adviser
Larry Gray
Stunt Co-ordinators
Minor Mustain
Dave McKeown

Diane Lane
Pearl Kantrowitz
Viggo Mortensen
Walker Jerome
Liev Schreiber
Marty Kantrowitz
Anna Paquin
Alison Kantrowitz
Tovah Feldshuh
Lilian Kantrowitz
Bobby Boriello
Daniel Kantrowitz
Stewart Bick
Neil Leiberman
Jess Platt
Herb Fogler
Mahee Paiment
Mrs Dymbort
Star Jasper
Rhonda Leiberman
Ellen David
Eleanor Gelfand
Lisa Bronwyn Moore
Norma Fogler
Vicky Barkoff
Selma Levitsky
Tamar Kozlov
Wendy Green
Lisa Jakub
Myra Naidell
Joseph Perrino
Ross Epstein
Jesse Lavendel
Carl Applebaum
James Liboiron
Jeffrey Fogler
Howard Rosenstein
Sheldon Dymbort
Mal Z. Lawrence
Joel Miller
Sid Shapiro
Bill Brownstein
Sam Gesser
Julie Kavner
voice of camp's social director
Miracle Communications
9,665 feet
107 minutes 23 seconds
Colour by
Technicolor East Coast
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011