Paper Moon (1973)

I hope my daughter is this cool.

A con man (Ryan O’Neal) and his precocious “daughter” (Tatum O’Neal, in an Oscar-winning role as Best Supporting Actress) grift their way across the heartland of depression-era America in director Peter Bogdanovich’s nostalgic look at the 1930s. As the two try desperately to scrounge up enough money to live on, their “father/daughter relationship” soon becomes a business partnership when they realize they need each other for survival.

This is one of those great nostalgic films, that captures the total look and feel of the 30s. Peter Bogdanovich makes the smart move of filming this in the perfect black-and-white to give us that depressed feeling, in light of the humor.There’s also a great soundtrack full of great 30’s music, which was a good idea, cause this film doesn’t even have a score, which impressed me.

The movie itself is funny and poignant. Its categorized as a drama, when really it’s a light-hearted comedy at its finest. The little shenanigans that these two get in, with all their crimes and cons, provide plenty of laughs for everyone. But there is also a cute little story that builds up as well, and hits well.

However, that was my main one problem, and that was that I wish they showed a lot more emotional scenes between this pair, and the bond that grows. Every once and awhile we get a scene of it, but never too much to really have us attached.

The performances for this film make this very entertaining. Ryan O’Neal is a very underrated actor, and if anybody questions his acting, can just take a look at this performance, and tell that he has the dramatic chops, as well as the comedic timing for a likable character. Tatum O’Neal, as far as I can tell (I’ve seen no other Oscar films of that year) deserved the Oscar. Petulant and stubborn without being annoying or precocious, she scowls down all patronizing eyes while still managing to turn it into feigning little girl innocence. These two are both actual life father and daughter, and it shows and their chemistry is where the heart of this film lies.

Consensus: Could have went deeper into the heart of the story, however, Paper Moon still provides plenty of laughter, good performances, and a story that is still fresh 30 years later.



  1. This has always been one of my favorites, though I’m not sure if it’s because of the movie itself, the fact that I liked the idea of Ryan and Tatum doing it together, or if it’s because I been a Ryan O’neal fan since Love Story. His appearances on Bones has been a stupendous addition to that show as well! 😀

  2. Thanks for the comment. It’s very true about Ryan O’Neal being an underrated actor, his skill in Paper Moon is plain to see, as it is in Barry Lyndon. Perhaps he’s underrated because he hides the effort so well, and inhabits the character so completely.
    Another thing to say about Paper Moon is what a great example it is of Hollywood cinema being a collaborative medium, a serendipitous combination of talents: Bogdanovich, the O’Neals, Lazslo Kovacks, Polly Platt etc etc.

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