There are two good performances in Moonlight Mile (2002), by Susan Sarandon as the edgy angry grieving mother, & Jake Gyllenhaal as the quietly suffering young man. No one else is even close to good.
Dustin Hoffman is especially awful as he riffs off his characters Rain Man & Mumbles from Dick Tracy. He might've been much better if the script were any good, & he does have one or two good moments. But Susan & Jake managed to do good work in a mediocre script, projecting credible characters.
For a movie that takes its title from a pop song, it also has one of the worst cinematic soundscapes in memory. So much & varied pop music intrudes that once in a great while it's apropos, but far too much of it is aggressively inappropriate musical selections demanding to be heard at expense of the narrative.
There's more premise than story here. A young man, Joe, is living with the parents of a woman he was once engaged to, a woman who was murdered in a restaurant. Joe is staying in the girlishly decorated room in her parent's house, & how weird is that.
How this loss affects these three people is the meat of the story, & some of the resultant emotions ring true. How Joe's passivity & quietness allows Ben & Jojo Floss to project onto him their illusions of what they need him to be lends a degree of depth to what might otherwise have been only a limp little film off the Hallmark Channel.
Unfortunately a sizeable percentage of the film is completely phony. To make Jake's character seem wiser than he really is, many side-characters are written as complete morons who speak & behave with exaggerated & heartless inappropriateness amounting to abuse which Joe suffers like a gentleman, Ben makes excuses for, & Jojo criticizes like a curmudgeon.
This is apparently supposed to prove that our main cast is smarter & nicer than are straw dogs, or that the author is not quite that pleasant after all to be imagining everyone outside an inner circle to be butt-ignorant & annoying & unworthy of compassion.
The dead woman had been Joe's best friend but they'd realized before she was murdered that it wasn't a sexual or romantic love. Now Joe doesn't know how to tell the parents the truth, that they'd already called off the marriage.
Not knowing what to do with his own life, he tries to become everything needed by Jojo & Ben. And what they need is the perfect son-in-law to patch over the ferocious pain of losing their daughter.
But he has met another woman (Ellen Pompeo) who also lost her best friend & they understand the precise nature of one another's grief. This, too, Jake has to hide from his dead ex's parents, as it looks so inappropriate for him to be so soon eager to be involved with someone new.
Holly Hunter as the prosecuting attorney has no chance at all to shine, despite that she's so cute with her slurring speech impediment. I would've liked to have seen a bit more of her, & a little less of Dustin.
One story-element I did like in this film was that we never find out if the killer was found guilty or not, because that's not what is important. The implication is that there are more important matters than revenge in coming to terms with loss.
Despite great promise & half a good cast, the failure of the film is in the uneven writing. Jake comes off well because he has so few speaking lines & is rarely forced to say something badly written. Even when a bit of dialog isn't actually bad, it remains the author's voice, rarely really the characters'.
In almost every scene the author is visible. You can see or hear his belief that he's being witty & touching & sensitive in his script, without ever confronting the equal reality that he's being a jerkoff. And in the percentage of scenes wherein precisely two of the actors rise above the dialog, it's because of their facial expressions, body language, & intonations.
But if Hallmark Card & Oxygen Channel movies usually delight you, Moonlight Mile is the A-cast version of a whine-of-the-week cable movie, & for such tastes a probable gem.
copyright © by Paghat the Ratgirl