Paper Moon is the story of two con artists, that of Moses Pray(Ryan O’Neal) and Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal). Their relationship starts when Addie’s floozy of a mother dies in car accident and Moses shows up at the funeral. He soon is taxed to take Addie with him as he’s headed in the same direction as her nearest kin an aunt in Missouri.
In what follows becomes a road movie across the depression addled midwest plains. They quickly become partners in crime Moses with his experience in cons and Addie with raw instinct in taking advantage of people’s sensibilities and good nature. Addie adds not only more ambition but almost gives him legatamacy as a decent person with child in tow.
To me movie is at its best when they’re conning and the dynamic of their relationship which dominates the film. Their relationship never feels like it gets overly sentimental. They clearly need each other and even though the movie never comes out and says Moses is the father he’s certainly plays it. I think something that helps the movie from not seeming emotionally manipulative is an almost lack of music. Personally I feel like certain films seem to cheat in using audio to make the audience feel something that’s not well enough portrayed on the screen. It also helps that Tatum O’Neal ablely manages to not seem too precocious in a way that could be annoying.
Along the way there of course obstacles, the first major one involves the introduction of the harlot Trixy Delight, played very well by Madaline Khan. On a side note its interesting to see what men would go to just to see a little flesh at a county fair; acting as if well the circus came to town. In this era I could never imagine such effort just for what probably was fairly tame. But back on track, Trixy mixes herself into the company of Moses and Addie, taking not only the spot of Addie in the car but the attention as well. My favoirte scene with Khan is when she’s attempting to get the upset Addie down from a hill and when she fails to get her by appealing to her vanity she admits her frailties in nicely unexpected way. Tatum O’Neal is really given the reins of the film during this act when her goal becomes removing Khan from the mix, and she handles it ably (afterall she holds the honor of the youngest recipient of best supporting actress in the Academy awards).
The last con of the film has repercussions and stakes that proceed the early scams of mere bible selling to widowers. They get in a little over their heads when they attempt to scam a local bootlegger who’s the brother of the local sherif. This last act inevitably propels Moses and Addie to their original destination, the aunt in Missouri. I would say that the ending is both satisfying and expected but in no way was I disappointed with the route it took. Personally I’d say that most audiences would indeed follow in the same vein as any other resolution would seem out of place with the way the film was going.
Overall the movie was extremely watchable. It was amazingly shot in black and white in a very classic way, with alot of wide shots that start with the characters in the center and then slowly closing in on them. Aside from an ending that felt a little rushed at times I highly recommend watching this con movie that at its heart is quite sweet and charming (in a way that’s just right of course).
Review (just to be different I’m using the 4 star system): 3.5 out of 4 stars