A young girl and a shifty con-man end up stuck together
and form an unlikely friendship as they drive to Missouri.
Paper Moon (1973)
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich
Written by Alvin Sargent
Starring Ryan O'Neal, Tatum O'Neal, Madeline Kahn,
P.J. Johnson, John Hillerman
Based on the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown
Oscar Wins - Best Supporting Actress (Tatum O'Neal)
Oscar Nominations - Best Supporting Actress (Madeline Kahn), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound
Reportedly, the relationship between the real Ryan and Tatum O'Neal was rocky at best, abusive at worst. When Tatum became the youngest actor in history to win an Oscar, Daddy was so jealous he smacked her. I only mention this because Paper Moon only exists thanks to the fantastic chemistry between the father and daughter acting duo, and knowing that story will likely impede your viewing experience and cast doubt about how pleasant making this movie likely was. But I digress. Paper Moon is a delightful comedy with a dash of crime and a sprinkling of drama, making this an excellent watch and another great film from Peter Bogdanovich.
The film is set during the Great Depression, and young Addie's (Tatum O'Neal) mother has just died. With no other kin nearby, Addie is going to be sent to Missouri to live with her estranged aunt and uncle. But nobody seems to want to make an effort to take her there, so the town just sort of drops her into the lap of a bible salesman who happened to be at the funeral. Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal) agrees to take the girl to her family, but soon shows the girl his true colors as a shifty con artist. But Addie threatens to turn him into the cops if he doesn't pay him the $200 he owes her. Thus begins an unlikely friendship that leads to brushes with the law over bootlegged whiskey, a gold digger (Kahn) who tries to trap Moses, and the possible revelation that Moses may be Addie's actual father. But of course, we never get confirmation on that. The whole film is charming, witty, and endearing, with never a dull moment.
While the ending was fairly predictable, as it's a trope that's been done to death, it's still nice to see things work out. Despite their differences in reality, Ryan and Tatum O'Neal are both fantastic. Tatum deserved that Oscar; it certainly wasn't the Academy being gimmicky. After seeing this and The Last Picture Show, Peter Bogdanovich is a filmmaker whose work I'm looking forward to exploring.