Hollywood writers are plagued with turning out pointless dribble that stinks with the effort to make the “real-life” slices they try to write emotional and meaningful. But what often lacks from these salary-based staff writers is the life experience that teaches a writer how to write the true emotions surrounding a “real slice of life.”
Brad Silberling (“City of Angles”), however, draws some raw emotion from personal experience of loss to bring forth the brutally honest tale told in “Moonlight Mile.” This writer/director was heavily involved in a relationship with young actress Rebecca Schaeffer when a crazed fan murdered her, and from the pain he endured from that loss he was able to write the character of Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal).
The story begins with Joe attempting to live with the secrets he and his fianc/ shared going into her murder at a local soda fountain. The wake and the funeral begin the film and watch Joe relate to the would-be in-laws he still lives with. They seem to have a close, very familiar relationship, so much in fact, that Ben (Dustin Hoffman) wants him to be his partner in a commercial real estate firm.
But more than just learning to grieve with each other, Joe needs to find a way to relieve the secret he and his late fianc/ kept from the family. And in the midst of his confusion and grief he finds in himself what it is to love again, when he finds a young local girl played by Ellen Pompeo.
Even though it seems too quick for him to be thinking of another girl, they share a loss that brings them close together and once you see how adorable Pompeo is, you’ll see why the physical and emotional attraction was irresistible for both characters. And from meeting this new girl, he must decide how to balance his role of the brokenhearted fianc/ and the desires he has to continue his life.
The technical aspects of this film are brilliant. Jake Gyllenhaal, whose first lead was in the off-the-wall comedy “Bubble Boy,” is proving himself to be an up-and-coming star. His latest role with Jennifer Aniston in “The Good Girl,” and “Moonlight Mile” being his follow up, I can guarantee that you will see this talented boy in many more pictures.
Susan Sarandon delivers a performance unlike any I have ever seen her in. Yes, she was remarkable in “Dead Man Walking” and she was fun in “Rocky Horror Picture Show,” but never has she been so dynamic. There were so many levels to her character, not because of the way she was written, but on the way she decided to play the character of JoJo with the lines she was given. If this film does not garner her an Oscar nomination, then those nominated must be the most fantastic performance of the past ten years. It would be tough to beat Sarandon out this year.
Dustin Hoffman, like the rest of the cast, helps shape this film into what it is, but he is still below the other performances of the picture. He may be nominated, but it is not a certain bet. He simply came across a touching script and did what he had to do; it was not anything that will stand out in his career.
So, the writing, the directing, the acting, the cinematography, the editing, it is all perfect. Of course, I will be giving this film an A. But there is something that many viewers will claim thwarts a high grade, and that is it’s pacing.
This is not a film that is going to be outstandingly entertaining. This is not an action film, this is not a romance film and this is not a comic film. This is what I call a real film, much in the spirit of “In The Bedroom,” only better. It is an authentic slice of life where you do not have heroes; you do not have perfect words and ideal settings. This is an everyday family that needs to survive a loved one’s death, and it is extraordinary. So if you want a wildly entertaining, or thrilling, or funny, or romantic film, do not expect to get that here. But I still stand firmly by my A.
Suggestions with Dustin Hoffman; “Tootsie,” “Wag the Dog,” “Rain Man,” “Dick Tracy,” “Midnight Cowboy,” “American Buffalo,” “The Messenger; the story of Joan of Arc,” “Sleepers,” “Hero,” “Hook,” “Death of a Salesman,” “Kramer Vs. Kramer,” “All the President’s Men,” “Papillon,” “The Graduate.”
Suggestions with Susan Sarandon; “Bull Durham,” “Dead Man Walking,” “Igby Goes Down,” “Little Women,” “Cradle Will Rock,” “Stepmom,” “The Client,” “Lorenzo’s Oil,” “Thelma and Louise,” “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”
And DO NOT miss Jake Gyllenhaal in “The Good Girl.”