In the winter of 1987-'88, Cher glowed on movie screens across the nation as the star of Moonstruck, her most perfect pop success since the summer of '65, when Sonny and Cher hit the top of the charts with "I Got You Babe." Her awards both at Cannes and the Oscars confirmed her mastery of a role that simultaneously required cheap, over-the-top romance and sly, above-it-all parody. It was as if she were finally in on the joke of her own bizarre career.
A recent broadcast of Moonstruck on VH1's "Movies That Rock" shows that the film still holds up. And yet the most telling moment this time around is a scene that passed unnoticed 15 years ago: the one in which Cher dies the gray out of her hair, turning from a natural exotic beauty into an '80s mall moll.
Cher's singing career since Moonstruck has played out that moment again and again. As she's moved from gaudy, over-the-top hair metal to slick, over-the-top Eurodisco (with no knowing winks of self-parody in sight), she has manifested little more than a superhuman will to mask the effects of aging through technological artifice. Once again, the critics are torn about Cher's worth. But as her latest records outsell those of Basement Jaxx, everyone from bohemians busting moves on sparkling dance floors to immigrants chopping vegetables in dirty restaurants turns it up and believes.