Now streaming: Paper Moon (PG)


Luke McWilliams gives his review of the 1973 film, Paper Moon.

In Gorham, Kansas, during the Great Depression, itinerant con man Moses Pray (Ryan O’Neal) arrives late at the funeral of the mother of nine-year-old Addie Loggins (Tatum O’Neal). Believing him to be the young orphan’s father, the neighbours urge Moses to take Addie with him on the road to her aunt’s home in St Joseph, Missouri.

Released in 1973 and shot-in-black and white at the suggestion of Orson Welles, Paper Moon is a classic. A 10-year-old Tatum O’Neal earned an Oscar for her troubles; she remains the youngest person to ever to win a competitive Academy Award.

Moses and Addie are played by real-life father and daughter actors, matching wits and strength all the way through. In harsh times during the Great Depression, Moses travels the land, committing a string of small cons to get by. With Addie’s insistence comes her assistance, challenging Moses to go just a little bit further in his cons.

The movie, like our characters, chugs along with haste: a road movie thrown forward by our leads’ quick patter and speedy cons. It’s a wonder whether Moses is Addie’s real father (they share the same jaw), and if Addie could, or would, go back to a semblance of normal life once she makes it to her aunt’s home.

Verdict: The movie highlights Moses’ quintessential grifter life (as parodied by The Simpsons’ monorail huckster) as shared with Addie, opposed to the cons he uses to get through it. 4.5 stars.

Paper Moon is streaming on SBS On Demand.

More film & TV reviews: