Under the Cherry Moon

Under the Cherry MoonSynopsis: His Purple Rain took the movie and music worlds by storm. Now Prince stars – and makes his directorial debut – in his lavishly playful second film Under The Cherry Moon.

He plays an American musician living with his pal (Jerome Benton) on the French Riviera and on the bank accounts of bored divorcees. The next object of his affection is a lovely and spirited young heiress (Kristin Scott Thomas in her movie debut). He doesn’t count on confronting the girl’s enraged father (Steven Berkoff). And he certainly doesn’t count on falling in love. But with Prince in charge, you can definitely count on exciting music, shimmering costume and production design and style to burn. This Moon shines!

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Under the Cherry Moon 3.75

eyelights: the gorgeous, opulent setting. the “black and white” photography.
eyesores: the boring as !@#$ script. The lame humour. the lead characters. the inconsistent performances. the discrepant score by Prince and The Revolution.

“Life is a parade.”

‘Under the Cherry Moon’ is the second big screen outing by Prince, following the wild success of ‘Purple Rain‘ two years prior. Released in 1986, the picture was a major commercial disappointment and was notoriously lambasted by the critics, going so far as winning five of the eight Razzies it was nominated for.

The picture takes us to Nice, on the French Riviera, where a couple of gigolos decide to scam a wealthy young woman of the 50 million dollars she’s getting on her 21st birthday. That is, until Christopher Tracy (Prince) becomes enamoured with the girl (Kristin Scott Thomas), and decides to reform himself.

‘Under the Cherry Moon’ was written as a romantic dramedy, but it plays like neither: the romance is neutered by a completely unrealistic relationship, the drama is too trite to generate any interest and the humour is so uninspired that not one laugh can be extracted from this cinematic drudgery.

The script is the first problem, naturally, but the characters are a serious problem, given that there isn’t a likeable one in the lot of them, especially our two leads:

  • Christopher Tracy is a vain, selfish and superficial person, who not only chases after Mary for her money, but also sleeps with her friend and makes out with her mom. He’s also a poor friend, ditching his side-kick, Jerome, the moment he can be alone with Mary. In other words, he’s a real dick.
  • Meanwhile the girl, Mary, is a spoiled rich girl who acts out in public just to get a rise out of her parents – but otherwise has no real backbone. She’s also judgemental and elitist, as evidenced by the way she frowns upon Christopher at first. And she doesn’t know what she wants, making things worse.

Between the two of them we have quite the pair: they fight, they love, and then they’re ceaselessly mean to each other. Nothing at any point explains what pulls them together. Um… what was the turning point? Where’s the magic? All we know is that they’re about as credible as Malcolm X joining the KKK.

The performers are not helping things, naturally, with nearly everyone being wildly inconsistent. Prince is a great performer, but he’s no actor; although he has some good moment, he’s mugging much of the time. Even Scott Thomas, who’s usually good, is barely tolerable. But, in all fairness, it’s her first role.

Heck, even the extras suck, with non-actors trying their best at faking French and Brit accents and often failing miserably. To think that Prince’s girlfriend at the time was due to play Mary, but was deemed not good enough for the part. Given the caliber that made the cut, she must really have stunk things up.

If the picture has any redeeming qualities, it’s all in the visuals. Although it was shot in colour, the film was released in black and white, which suits it quite well. Given that it’s set on the Riviera and that a lot of the opulent designs are reminiscent of ’20s fashion and architecture, it actually works.

But that’s also part of the problem, because the film appears anachronistic. It’s clearly set in modern times, as based on some hairdos, fashion and technology, but 75% of the time you would be forgiven if you thought that picture was set 60 years prior. It’s a strange vibe, and that’s a mixed bag.

Also a mixed bag is the music. Given that this was a Prince vanity project (he also directed the piece), his music is featured heavily. So the soundtrack is all by Prince and The Revolution, with a little help on strings by Clare Fischer. One would think this a good thing, but it’s extremely discrepant to the setting.

The score is unusual as it often consists of the band’s backing tracks – which is jarring after ‘Purple Rain’, which was much more accessible. To make things worse, it’s poorly edited with the scenes, popping and out of nowhere. Interestingly, though, a lot of that music did not make it on the soundtrack.

The companion album, ‘Parade’, also by Prince and The Revolution, paled in comparison to the astonishing ‘Purple Rain’ and was neither the commercial or critical success. It ended up selling 2 million copies, as did 1985’s ‘Around the World in a Day’, while ‘Purple Rain’ has moved 13 million.

The picture has little going for it and it managed to ruin everything in the end, by killing a main character (no doubt for a little contrived pathos), ruining the mood even more. The ending doesn’t make any sense, with Jerome showing up even though our lovebirds speed-boated their way to the island while he was on foot.

So not only were we bored and irritated for nearly 100 minutes, in the end we were insulted and slapped in the face. ‘Under the Cherry Moon’ is hardly the worst film ever but it fails on so many counts that it’s anything but a good time. It’s not even entertaining. And this is coming from a big fan the ’80s and ’90s Prince.

Do yourselves a favour and skip it. This is for the die-hards and morbidly curious only.

Date of viewing: June 22, 2015

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