The Unnecessary Necessary Scene

moonstruck

Moonstruck is one of my favorite romantic comedies of all time. I can watch it a dozen times and never get tired of it. The story follows widow Loretta, played by Cher (in an Oscar-winning performance) who agrees to marry her unremarkable boyfriend Johnny, who is on his way to see his dying mother in Sicily. Before he leaves, he asks her to see his estranged brother Ronnie and invite him to the wedding. Things get complicated when Loretta and Ronnie meet and almost immediately fall into bed and, maybe, madly in love.

The movie has some amazing scenes, plenty of quotable quotes and, in my opinion, it’s one of the rare romantic comedies that’s actually romantic AND funny.

And it has one totally unnecessary scene.

That’s the scene where Loretta’s father Cosmo (Vincent Gardenia), who is a plumber, is advising a yuppie couple on the kind of pipes they should use when renovating their Brooklyn home. He convinces them to use copper, the most expensive kind.

This scene serves almost no purpose as far as advancing the story, including a subplot about Cosmo cheating on Loretta’s mother. It does give a clue as to Cosmo’s character (he later brags about it to his mistress Mona) but it could easily have been left out of the movie.

I’m so glad it wasn’t.

This is a comedy, and it is a funny scene, though not belly-laugh funny. It’s just kind of there, a little vignette. But if you ask people to name some of their favorite scenes in the movie, I’ll bet this one is named a lot.

A few years ago I took a tour of Brooklyn while visiting New York. The tour operator played clips of scenes from movies shot in Brooklyn on a TV monitor in the front of the bus. Some of the films included were The French Connection, Saturday Night Fever, Scent of A Woman and, of course, Moonstruck.

There are many scenes in Moonstruck shot in the streets of the borough, including a few that feature its most famous landmark, the Brooklyn Bridge. But the tour operator chose the one of Cosmo and the copper pipes. Of all the scenes shown in the compilation of clips featuring Brooklyn, this one got the biggest and most positive reaction from the passengers on the bus.

And it totally doesn’t need to be in the movie.

While it’s good to be ruthless when editing–killing your darlings and removing scenes that don’t advance the plot or don’t reveal character–sometimes, just sometimes, it’s not a bad idea to leave one in that doesn’t totally need to be in the story.

Of course, it has to be a great, memorable scene. Like Cosmo explaining why copper pipes are the only ones he uses.

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