Moonlight Mile (2010) / Drama-Romance

MPAA Rated: PG-13 for some sensuality and brief strong language
Running Time: 117 min.

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Pompeo, Holly Hunter
Director: Brad Silberling
Screenplay: Brad Silberling

Review published October 14, 2002

Much of the dramatic resonance that writer-director Brad Silberling brought to MOONLIGHT MILE comes from his very own experiences, most notably his relationship with actress Rebecca Shaeffer, who was stalked and killed by an obsessed fan in 1989.  This film isn't based on that murder, not really even in the loosest sense, but it provided the impetus for Silberling to craft a film about love and loss, similar in theme to his earlier film, CITY OF ANGELS.  Perhaps this also accounts as to why much of the film is played for sentimentality rather than in driving home a point, and to that extent may not appeal to a certain audience out there who aren't game for a drama on the soft side.

MOONLIGHT MILE is set in the 1970s, where a young girl named Diana has been murdered in a small town diner, seemingly an innocent bystander caught in between a domestic dispute of sorts.  Jake Gyllenhaal plays her fiancée Joe, who has been practically adopted by Diana's parents, Ben and JoJo, who offer him room, board and even a career in Ben's commercial real estate business.  It's an awkward relationship they have, with the couple filling the void of Diana's loss with Joe, while he is unsure of his life and willing to go with the flow, despite the fact that their engagement had been broken off shortly before her death.  Meanwhile, another local girl has taken a liking to Joe, which threatens to break the silence among the ad hoc family, and perhaps force them to confront their own grief.

MOONLIGHT MILE is bolstered by the performances of Gyllenhaal and Sarandon, who also serves as one of the film's executive producers.  Holly Hunter and Dustin Hoffman are about what you'd expect, although they would not necessarily have been my choice for either of their respective roles.  The setting in the Seventies is nice, but also curious, as it doesn't seem to need to be, although one could claim that the backdrop of the Vietnam war as well as the death of small town business due to the all-in-one stores shores up  backbone of loss and grief thematically.  The story sort of meanders, so impatient viewers may not be able to stick with such a ponderous affair at times, but the quality of the acting and characters does manage to hold it up, even when things look like they aren't going anywhere in particular.

MOONLIGHT MILE is recommended for anyone in search for a meaningful drama, with some bits of comedy and tragedy thrown in.  Contrary to the storyline, the film isn't as sad or depressing as you might expect, so don't shy away from it thinking it's going to be a maudlin tearjerker.  This is a film about letting go of people lost, and if you can relate, credit Silberling for making as entertaining a tale of coping as one might reasonably expect.

Qwipster's rating:

©2002 Vince Leo