Moonlight Mile

Movie Review by Kris Griffiths

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Holly Hunter, Ellen Pompeo

Director: Brad Silberling

“Comedy in the midst of tragedy is a natural dynamic,” declares writer/director Brad Silberling, “and what should be a sombre situation ends up being unexpectedly funny.” This much is true: you can have a brilliant laugh at someone’s wake without feeling too guilty, and from such tragicomedy can flow good movie material if effectively directed. Unfortunately, MOONLIGHT MILE is a confused affair, producing little tragic feeling and even less laughs. With such Thespian talent at his disposal, this is wasteful indeed.

A month before her wedding, the daughter of Ben and JoJo Floss (Hoffman and Sarandon), and wife-to-be of Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal, THE GOOD GIRL) is blown away by a crazed gunman in her local diner. For unclear reasons Joe decides to move in with his would-be in-laws so they can all be depressed together. They grieve in different ways: Ben acts as if nothing’s happened, JoJo wallows in booze and sarcasm, whilst Joe wanders around with a dopey blank look on his face that doesn’t change throughout the film.

In his first week he meets the local postwoman who has also conveniently lost her boyfriend to the Vietnam War. For several whole days he resists her charms even when she turns up on his doorstep in true romantic comedy style, soaking wet after delivering post late at night in torrential rain. Within weeks he is sneaking out of his bedroom window for some guilty nocturnal action. Ben and JoJo are none too pleased when they find out but Joe has been concealing a big secret about him and their dead daughter and is saving it for the film’s ‘big secret-telling scene’.

As previously mentioned, this movie is neither tragic nor funny, only painfully plodding. It trudges along sluggishly with a disclosure here, an epiphany there, a sad bit here, an out of place joke there, until the whole film fades into dreary confusion. With regards to the tragedy factor, if we have learnt next to nothing about the dead girl how can we feel any sense of loss? Despite the odd grouchy moment the leading couple are also far too chirpy for grief-stricken parents. Indeed the film’s few flashes of humour arise from the grieving scenes: the cliched “we feel your pain” remarks from funeral guests and JoJo hurling all their self-help gift books into a fire – one of them amusingly titled ‘Grieving for Adults’ with a glum-looking adult on the cover.

The sad thing is that Sarandon is superb and Hoffman mirrors her eccentricities with caustic realism. I guess I’d rather sit through a dull story well-acted than a good story badly-acted, but without Susy and Dusty this is just a daytime movie for mothers that even my mother would struggle to sit through until the bittersweet end.

2 out of 6 stars

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