review for Racing with the Moon on AllMovie

Racing with the Moon (1984)
by Michael Costello review

Richard Benjamin's moodily nostalgic film on young love in the WWII era is a light, lyrical valentine to the period, featuring an excellent cast. The first produced script of the talented 24-year-old Steve Kloves, it has such modest intentions for its familiar story, and unfolds it with such charm, that it's difficult to resist. Charm is not a word one associates with Sean Penn, but the caring, sensitive teenager he plays so well makes his instant appeal for Elizabeth McGovern's putative rich girl easy to accept. Nicolas Cage has the thankless role of Penn's self-absorbed friend, but it's less his personality than the pointless and distracting subplots in which the film enmeshes him that make him so annoying. Benjamin shows a surprising restraint, keeping some distance between actors and camera, and allowing scenes to develop at a natural pace. His sense of period detail is also a plus here, especially in the hilarious bowling sequence and the game of pool. While perhaps not the weightiest of films, it grace and innate respect for its characters make it a pleasure that's impossible to dismiss.