"That nerd from Fast Times can actually act" - Sean Penn describing Nicolas Cage
I don't think that Nicolas Cage fits the classical definition of a nerd. However, he can definitely be classified as an outsider. Not only is Nicolas Cage the nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, but he also attended Beverly Hills High School. You would think that these two developments would give Nic the inside track for being popular and successful but it actually had the opposite effect. He might have had the last name Coppola, but his father was only a poor teacher (a poor but acclaimed teacher)and Nic felt that he could never compete with the children of movie stars who had money and influence. This eventually caused him feelings of insecurity. These feelings of insecurity followed him onto the movie sets of Fast Times and Rumble Fish as many of his fellow actors felt that he was getting work due to his name and not by his actual talent. Nic became the butt of many a jokes and one of the nicknames he acquired was "that nerd."
It was only after the success of Valley Girl that Hollywood began to shower Nic with some acclaim. But the feelings of insecurity still remained. And for his next role, Nicolas Cage decided to get out of Hollywood for a while and hang out with his good friend and drinking buddy, Sean Penn. The film they stared in together became "Racing with the Moon."
As Alex described earlier, "Racing with the Moon" is a story about Henry and Nicky, two small town pals with only a short time before they ship off to World War II. Henry begins romancing new-to-town Caddie Winger (Elizabeth McGovern) and Nicky gets into trouble because of his penis. Sean Penn plays the hell out of Henry with a wonderful tour-de-force of intensity, compassion, and confusion. Nicolas Cage plays the role of Nicky. Initially, you start to think that the character is eerily similar to "Smokey" from Rumble Fish. But as the movie continues, you realize that Nicky is just a tough talking kid that's actually scared shitless of the upcoming war and Nic plays it just right. The best compliment I can give to Nicolas Cage's acting in this film is that he is not at all overshadowed by Sean Penn's performance. And in this movie, that's a pretty decent feat.
I could go on to describe more of the story, but in all honesty the movie isn't really that good. What is worse is that it almost feels like there is a really good little film somewhere in this jumbled mess. Sean Penn’s and Nicolas Cage’s performances just get lost to either bad writing or bad directing. Hell, even Nicolas Cage thought this was a bad movie when he stated, "I don't think it was that good ... I felt it was something like a Hallmark Card - sweet and sentimental without and sense of depth or danger".
So, in conclusion, Racing with the Moon has some great acting by Sean Penn and Nicolas Cage. But both of those performances are wasted in this "Lifetime Movie of the Week" quality, shitty movie. I've already taken the two best scenes from this movie and put them in the Youtube video below. I recommend watching that video instead of watching "Racing to the Moon." You'll thank me later.
Fun Fact: Nicolas Cage and Crispin Glover both went to same high school.