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A Walk on the Moon’ conjures up memories of summers in Catskills

ROYAL PALM BEACH, Fla., May 2 (JTA) — A funny thing happened during a recent South Florida screening of “A Walk on the Moon” that was fitting for a charming film with a Jewish family theme. A woman was leaving the theater when another patron asked her if she enjoyed the film. “Why, yes,” she replied. “But I may be a bit biased because my son, Jay Cohen, is the producer.” The man responded: “I , too, have a great reason for loving the film. My daughter, Pamela Gray, wrote the movie.” The film — which is still a well-kept secret even after its recent release — focuses on what happens when two divergent worlds collide in the summer of 1969: Woodstock — the combination rock concert, love-fest, social revolution and hedonistic hippie celebration — and the Catskills bungalows where Jewish families vacationed for the summer. “A Walk On The Moon” is a comic and heartbreakingly real love story about Pearl Kantrowitz (Diane Lane), a Jewish housewife who undergoes her own unexpected sexual revolution through an affair with Walker Jerome (Viggo Mortensen), a radically nonconformist blouse salesman. The third part of this triangle is Pearl’s hard-working husband, Marty (Liev Schreiber), a traditional television repairman who labors all week in order to spend time with his family on the weekends. The family includes a teen-age daughter, Alison (Anna Paquin); an impressionable young son, Daniel (Bobby Boriello); and Marty’s mother, Lilian Kantrowitz, a modern and somewhat untraditional Jewish grandmother, played by Tovah Feldshuh. The result is a very personal, intimate and original romantic comedy about how – – even in a time of moonwalks and massive political movements — change often happens on the inside. Producer Cohen said that he and his partner, the actor Dustin Hoffman, decided to make this film immediately after reading Gray’s screenplay. “There are so many characters in this script who are real for us,” Cohen said. “This is a compelling story about human emotion and genuine love, and everything about it was legitimate to us.” Cohen, who spoke recently from his office at Punch Productions in Los Angeles, said the film is about life, marriage, love, responsibility and how you have to sacrifice and grow in order to sustain relationships. Although this Miramax film is still a bit of a sleeper, Cohen and the other producers have confidence in its ability to gain wider visibility. “Thanks to my mother, Sandra, in West Palm Beach” and “all of her friends at the pool, word is starting to spread.” When it came time to select a cast for the film, Cohen said he shied away from big-name celebrities and concentrated on getting the best actor for each part. One of the pivotal roles in the film, the family’s beloved Jewish grandmother, or bubbe, was initially difficult to find. Cohen said he, Hoffman and director Tony Goldwyn had been seeking a much bolder and traditional type to play the grandmother until Broadway veteran and cabaret favorite Feldshuh arrived at the audition. “At first I was uncertain about Tovah because she seemed so young to be a grandmother,” Goldwyn said. “But her wonderful reading gave me the idea that a younger grandmother closer in age to Pearl could really have some insight into what was going on in her marriage. Tovah gives the character a larger-than-life, mystical quality. She is the intuitive center of the piece.” Feldshuh, who was recently seen in South Florida in “Together at Last” with Broadway entertainer Bruce Adler and in her own cabaret show at the Ritz-Carlton in Philadelphia, said she loved going to Montreal two summers ago to make the film. “Every day was like Chanukah with them because of the artistic gifts that Cohen, Hoffman and Goldwyn eagerly showered on me,” Feldshuh said. Feldshuh said that making this film evoked memories of stories her own mother would tell of summers in the Catskills in 1915, when it was still farmland and it cost $60 to stay there an entire summer. “My mother told me precious stories of them dressing up in white while waiting for Papa to come before Shabbas. I wanted to evoke some of those lovely memories in this film,” Feldshuh said. “To be true to the film and my family we gave audiences a grandmother with layers, not a stereotypical one. “When I was playing the role of the bubbe I was honoring the Kaplan girls — my mother, grandmother and Aunt Nancy,” she said. “I was thinking about the matriarch of the family, the Lioness of Judah who was extremely loving and yet the survival of the family is the most important thing in her life. She is motivated by the crucial fact that the family must succeed.”