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Moonlight Mile (2002)

In life and love, expect the unexpected

Directed by:

Brad Silberling

Rating: 5/10

Running Time: 117 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

I started watching this film knowing nothing about it, except that it has an impressive cast but a title suspiciously reminiscent of those awful made-for-daytime-TV melodramas. Having now seen it, I’m convinced you could replace that stellar cast with some lesser-knowns, and you’d instantly have yourself exactly what the title suggests.

Set in the early 70s, the film shows us a family attempting to make it through the uncomfortable aftermath of the funeral of a loved one. Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon play Ben and JoJo Floss, the parents of a girl killed by a gunman in a bar. Jack Gyllenhal is Joe, the girl’s fiancée, who following the shooting finds himself living with Ben and JoJo as a bizarre surrogate son. Much like the film itself, it’s a situation steeped in awkwardness, and things don’t look likely to improve when Joe finds himself falling for troubled postal worker Bertie (Ellen Pompeo).

The story, unusual in that it spends its entirety dealing with the family’s handling of grief for a murder we don’t actually get to see, is said to be loosely based on the real life experience of director Brad Silberling. He was dating TV actress Rebecca Schaeffer when she was murdered by a crazed fan in 1989, and has since spoken of his newfound closeness to her parents.

Against such a background, the film possesses much that seems genuine and in places is extremely touching. Unfortunately, there’s also an inescapable feel that there’s just not much of a story being told here. Each of the actors produce exactly the standard of performance you’d expect from such heady names, but their efforts seem without direction or overall point. Essentially, there’s never any real indication of what sort of resolution we’re meant to be heading for, and it can make for a tiresome viewing experience.

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It's Got: A nicely chosen soundtrack, including ditties from Van Morrison, Elton John, the Rolling Stones, David Bowie, and, erm, Gary Glitter.

It Needs: A stronger storyline to make the most of an outstanding cast.

DVD Extras A TV documentary titled ‘A Journey to Screen’, some deleted scenes, and a choice of audio commentaries from either the director or the cast and crew. DVD Extras Rating: 5/10

Alternatives:

Ordinary People, The Good Girl

Summary

Well made and strongly-performed, but lacking in that spark needed to make it memorable.

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