The soul of America rests in the Midwest. Within the wheat lands of Kansas and mountains of Utah, is a place of small towns, rural farming, and highways that stretch for an eternity. In this land, you will find people that are more humble and simple. Unfortunately, there are people that are willing to take advantage of these kind souls. During the Great Depression, times became so difficult that grifting had become a carrier for many. This bring up the perfect question to this, “is it okay to steal to feed your starving family?”. Under unfair circumstance, I say you need to protect your loved ones.
Paper Moon is a different kind of Depression movie. Usually, when I think of this time period, I think of The Grapes of Wrath. That film showed the dark side of reality, from the family moving to California to working for little money. That took itself seriously. Paper Moon may look like something from then, but it gives itself more of a dark comedy voice to it. This is a movie dedicated to those con men that took the little that people had. Someone once said, “There’s a sucker in everyone”.
Filmed in black and white, Paper Moon gives itself the bleak image its needs to open the curtain of time. Though the movie was made in 1973, an ordinary viewer would never be able to tell. This movie feels like something right out of the thirties. Everything feels authentic from the costumes, sets, cars, and especially the music. The movie seemed to have the advantage of being shot in towns that had still retained its depression era buildings. The just adds to the dark atmosphere further sets it in time. The funny thing here is that the darker, comic elements brings our two heroes closer together. They need each other to con their way to the big leagues.
Father-daughter team Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal are the stars in this perspective of the Depression. Moses Pray (Ryan) has a business of selling deluxe bibles to widowed wives, getting more then their worth. When he comes across the orphaned Addie, he makes a deal to get her to her aunt’s home. What he doesn’t realize is that Addie is more Tom Sawyer then any other kid, and uses her clever street smarts to boom the business. They mark twenty-dollar bills, ask for uncounted change, and sell bootleggers their own alcohol to a richer lifestyle, both in wealth and in family.
This is something that doesn’t get as much recognition as it deserves. This has to be my favorite film about the Great depression. It may sound like a typical melodrama, but the story twists and turns with the situations. The movie doesn’t even end on the typical happy ending, but you’ll still walk out happy about these people. Paper Moon shows us an era where people may have done bad things for money, that that doesn’t make them bad people. They’re just hard to trust.
This gets five Coney Island hot dogs out of five. For a movie that should be sad, it is very funny. Okay, its not laugh out loud funny, but it made me smile. If the bleak world of the black and white depression can find a little happiness, then maybe I can find something in today’s recession