A sweet and subtle gem of a movie. Newly orphaned Addie (Tatum O'Neal) falls into the care of small-time con artist Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal, Tatum's real-life father) and turns out to be better at grifting than he is. Set in Depression-era Kansas, Paper Moon
is a miracle of unity. The set design and cinematography combine to give both the flavor of documentary photos and the visual quality of movies from the period, and every performance meshes with the overall tone of sincerity, earnest optimism, and creeping desperation. The rapport between Addie and Moses is phenomenal--and being father and daughter doesn't make that a sure thing. Ryan O'Neal gives a truly great performance (perhaps the only one of his career) and Tatum won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress (she's the youngest winner in history). Madeline Kahn was also nominated for her wonderfully funny and sad turn as an exotic dancer named Trixie Delight. Paper Moon
has a miraculous combination of outrageous sentimentality and pragmatic cynicism; the result is genuinely touching. One of director Peter Bogdanovich's best films, and kind of a comic companion piece to The Last Picture Show
. --Bret Fetzer
Adapted from the novel "Addie Pray" by Joe David Brown, PAPER MOON is set in the Midwest during the Great Depression, and follows the story of Moses Pray (Ryan O'Neal), a happy-go-lucky con artist who travels through the Midwest on a mission to swindle money out of innocent widows. While attending a friend's funeral, Pray is called upon by two elderly ladies to deliver the daughter of the deceased, Addie (Tatum O'Neal), to her aunt in Missouri. Soon learning that the 9-year-old is almost as mischievous and manipulative as he is, Pray and Addie develop a father and daughter routine that increases their credibility as well as their income. Now, the devious duo set out on a series of misadventures involving crooked cops, bootleggers, grieving widows and a Carney dancer named Miss Trixie Delight (Kahn) who adds a little spice to their routine.