Potentially my largest cinematic blindspot to-date, Peter Bogdanovich's Paper Moon tells the story of a con-artist bible salesman who inadvertently is given the responsibility of taking care of an orphaned child who may or not be his own offspring. Addie, the orphan girl, is sharp and hardened due to the Depression-era, quickly teaming up with Moses to con people throughout Kansas as a way to get by. Paper Moon is everything one could hope for out of a road trip movie and so much more, capturing a life-changing personal journey for its two main protagonists whose attachment to each other grows despite their initial disdain. The film never makes it clear whether Addie is Moses' daughter or not, with Bogdonovich realizing this simply isn't important in driving the story forward. A film that could have easily become overly-dramatic and emotionally manipulative, Peter Bogdanovich manages this film with a great deal of subtlety both in the father-daughter dynamic and how it evolves, to how the film handles the great depression. Paper Moon subtlety creates one of the best portraits of the great depression committed to celluloid, capturing the desperate times that forced many people to step out of the comfort zone in order to make the money necessary to survive. Outside of Moses and Addie, Paper Moon introduces a host of characters from different walks of life, all of which seem to be doing what is necessary to survive in these harsh times. The best example of this may be a prostitute type character known as Trixie, who manipulates Moses into taking care of her. What is surprising about this segment of the film is how much respect Bogdanovich gives Trixie as a character, never condemning her but understanding that she is simply using her assets to survive. Bogdanovich is one of the most underrated directors specifically from a visual perspective, with Paper Moon being another great example of his natural understanding of when to move to camera to create maximum emotional impact in the viewer. Featuring one of the best child performances of all time, great natural chemistry between its two leads, and sharp direction, Paper Moon is another great film by Peter Bogddanovich.
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