Friday, February 10, 2017
Based on the novel Addie Brown by Joe David Brown, Paper Moon is the story of a con man who reluctantly teams up with a young girl who could be his daughter as they go on the road to make money. Directed by Peter Bogdanovich and screenplay by Alvin Sargent, the film is a road film of sorts meshed with the caper film set during the Great Depression in Kansas where a man and a young girl team up and con people out of their money. Starring Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, Randy Quaid, and Madeline Kahn. Paper Moon is a rich and witty film from Peter Bogdanovich.
The film revolves around a con man who attends a funeral for a woman he knew as he’s asked to take the woman’s daughter to St. Joe, Missouri from Kansas to her aunt as they go on a road trip where they con people and make money. It’s a film that blends all sorts of genres revolving around a man and a nine-year old girl during the Great Depression as they team up to make money and swindle people out of it. It’s an unlikely partnership between two people who don’t really know each other but they end up bringing the best in each other when it comes to making money. Alvin Sargent’s screenplay explore this unique dynamic between the con man Moses “Moze” Pray (Ryan O’Neal) and this young girl named Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal) who definitely don’t want to do anything with each other at first though Addie needs a ride to St. Joe, Missouri. Yet, the money that Addie is owed to for the loss of her money would be in Moze’s hands as she wants that money.
Upon realizing what Moze does, she gets in the act of conning people out of money as Moze reluctantly makes her his partner-in-crime where the two create an act of selling bibles to recently-made widows. Addie would learn the trade of swindling people out of money while pretending to be Moze’s daughter as they would make money. The partnership would be threatened in the second act when Moze meets the exotic dancer Miss Trixie Delight (Madeline Kahn) whom Addie doesn’t like as she realizes what Miss Trixie is and how easy it is to con her. One of the Addie’s unique traits about her character is how to read and observe people as it is among her strengths in conning people and helping Moze while Moze is someone that is quite flawed as he’s quite careless in those he con as well as towards Addie at times. The third act isn’t just about the two dealing with failure but also biting more than they can chew when it comes to conning other people.
Peter Bogdanovich’s direction is definitely stylish not just for the fact that it’s shot in black-and-white but it’s also for playing into a period in time that was quite tough but also with a sense of hope. Shot on various locations in Kansas and Missouri, Bogdanovich’s usage of wide shots with the widescreen format definitely capture a great depth of field into the landscape filled with field and some dry locations as well as the way he would shoot characters into a wide shot. Bogdanovich’s usage of medium shots and close-ups would play into the relationship between Moze and Addie where there’s a lot of scenes shot in whatever car they’re in or at a motel room. There are also moments that are quite comical as it relates to the way Addie would help Moze in his scheme or how she would con a cashier over money claiming she gave her a $20 when she really gave her a $5 bill. Bogdanovich would take his time show how Addie would create that scheme as it has this sense of thought and planning as Bogdanovich would shoot things from her perspective and observation.
Another aspect of Bogdanovich’s evocative approach in the direction is where he also play into the things that would play into this kind of rise-and-fall scenario for these two beginning with Moze’s meeting with Miss Trixie. The scenes with Miss Trixie and her maid Imogene (P.J. Johnson) that are very funny where the latter would befriend Addie as she knows what is going on. The third act is a bit darker in terms of the people that Moze and Addie would encounter as well as the fact that the former’s luck and way to charm people doesn’t work as it does add to some reality which includes a chase scene shot in a long dolly-tracking shot. Even as it also play into the developing relationship between Moze and Addie where they find this unlikely dynamic in a father-daughter duo. Overall, Bogdanovich creates a riveting yet lively film about a con man who teams up with a young girl to swindle money out of people during the Great Depression.
Cinematographer Laszlo Kovacs does incredible work with the film‘s black-and-white photography in capturing the beauty of the landscapes as well as the usage of lights and shadows for some of the interior/exterior scenes set at night. Editor Verna Fields does excellent work with the editing as it is largely straightforward with some jump-cuts to play into some of the action. Production/costume designer Polly Platt, with set decorator John P. Austin, does brilliant work with design of the motel sets and some of the props that were used in those times as well as the costumes from the clothes that Addie wears as well as the lavish stuff of Miss Trixie. Sound editors Kay Rose and Frank E. Warner is superb for its low-key and naturalistic sound as it play into some of the events in the location and the humor. The film’s music soundtrack consists of the music of the times like ragtime, country-western, and pop as well as some radio programs from Jack Benny.
The casting by Gary Chason is great as it include some notable small roles and appearances from Randy Quaid as a hillbilly named Leroy, Yvonne Harris as a widow that would pay more money for a bible due to Addie’s suggested fee, James N. Harrell as a minister in the film’s opening funeral scene, P.J. Johnson as Miss Trixie’s young maid Imogene, and John Hillerman in a dual role as a bootlegger and his deputy brother. Madeline Kahn is brilliant as Miss Trixie Delight as an exotic dancer at a carnival who woos Moze and spend his money as this early definition of a gold-digger. Finally, there’s the duo of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal in phenomenal performances as Moses “Moze” Pray and Addie Loggins, respectively. Ryan’s performance as Moze is this man who is quite good at what he does but doesn’t see the big picture as he’s more concerned about making and spending money. Tatum’s performance as Addie is definitely the highlight as she is this young girl that is fully aware of what is going on as she’s much smarter than Moze but is also a troublemaker who likes to smoke cigarettes. The O’Neals together are a joy to watch together in the way bring the best in each other through funny and dramatic moments.
Paper Moon is an outstanding film from Peter Bogdanovich that feature tremendous performances from the real father-daughter duo of Ryan and Tatum O’Neal. Along with gorgeous visuals, Alvin Sargent’s witty screenplay, and a fantastic supporting ensemble cast, it’s a film that showcases what two people could do to make money and bring out the best in each other. In the end, Paper Moon is a spectacular film from Peter Bogdanovich.
Peter Bogdanovich Films: (Targets) - (Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women) - (Directed by John Ford) - The Last Picture Show - (What’s Up Doc?) - (Daisy Miller) - (At Long Last Love) - (Nickelodeon) - (Saint Jack) - (They All Laughed) - (Mask (1985 film)) - (Illegally Yours) - (Texasville) - (Noises Off) - (The Thing Called Love) - (To Sir, with Love II) - (The Price of Heaven) - (Rescuers: Stories of Courage: Two Women) - (Naked City: A Killer Christmas) - (A Saintly Switch) - (The Cat’s Meow) - (The Mystery of Natalie Wood) - (Hustle (2004 film)) - (Runnin’ Down a Dream) - (She’s Funny That Way)
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