When Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) has to bury his fiancée after a random act of violence, he slips into the role of bereaved husband-to-be and son-in-law-to-be, but nurses a secret about his previous relationship with the dead girl. Living with his would-have-been-in-laws (Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon), Joe meets Bertie (Ellen Pompeo), who runs the friendly local bar; her impact on him makes him reconsider just how he really feels about his murdered girlfriend and himself.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Reading the production notes, I see that Brad Silberling wrote the screenplay for “two people – Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman” and his dream was to put them together. I guess he’d call it dream casting then . . . and so would we. The casting success continues with Jake Gyllenhaal and Ellen Pompeo in this moody and compelling comedy drama. The comedy is not so much laugh out loud stuff as the gentle humour of accurate observations about human nature. The subtleties are beautifully captured by writer/director Silberling, with the help of sensitive camera and lighting work by Phedon Papamichael. Set in New England in the early 70s, the film has a sense of veracity and unhurried exposition that reminds me what made The Wonder Boys such a joy and so satisfying. Here, Jake Gyllenhaal does what Tobey Maguire did in Wonder Boys, playing a quiet, introverted young man with a major life discovery to be made. Ellen Pompeo is a warm and fresh discovery, and Hoffman & Sarandon are indeed beautiful music together. The unsensational approach to the killing which triggers the human drama makes sure everything is kept in perspective, even the big issues like love, life, truth and being yourself.
Review by Louise Keller:
Just like in real life with complex situations, it takes some time for us to put the pieces of the puzzle together in Moonlight Mile, a poignantly moving story about death, love and dreams. In fact, although death plays a crucial role, the accent is on living and readjusting when fate steps in and plays a bad card. Director/writer Brad Silberling is no stranger to dealing with such issues: after all, this film is loosely autobiographical, touching on his own experiences when his actress girlfriend was murdered. His 1998 film City of Angels starring Meg Ryan and Nicolas Cage, brought together a supernatural love story with ingredients of death and eternal life most effectively. Moonlight Mile is a richly observant piece, in which humorous and often stranger-than-fiction occurrences take place at the most inopportune and heartrending times. It’s about the reactions of the characters, through their everyday responses, the resentments and coming to terms with how to cope now and for the rest of their lives. To begin with, we get totally hooked by the characters, each with their own idiosyncrasies and hang-ups. We can relate to the very human-ness in them all. Ben’s placid, almost anal personality (he just can’t resist picking up the phone when it rings); JoJo’s contrasting free-spirited youthful mother; Joe’s indecision while keen to do the right thing, but all-the-while wishing it could include honesty; Bertie’s lonely, faithful, quirky postal worker chained to her memories. Jake Gyllenhaal seems to have made a niche for himself playing troubled characters in such films as The Good Girl, Donnie Darko and Lovely and Amazing – often being seduced by older women. There’s no Mrs Robinson seduction here, but Susan Sarandon’s JoJo is a vibrant and interesting character that is as unpredictable as the wind. Dustin Hoffman brings a dense intensity to his almost anal Ben, who is longing for the son he never had. Ellen Pompeo has a wonderful presence, reminiscent of, and often looking like, Renee Zellweger; her Bertie has reached an emotional parallel with Jo, scared to leave the past for the future. The truth is that life isn’t black and white, and often the funniest moments arise at the most tragic times. It’s funny, sad, unpredictable and richly rewarding, this unusual love story set in a small town that shows us that dreams aren’t really dreams, unless they are what you want.
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MOONLIGHT MILE (M)
CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Aleksia Landeau, Holly Hunter
PRODUCER: Mark Johnson, Brad Silberling
DIRECTOR: Brad Silberling
SCRIPT: Brad Silberling
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael ASC
EDITOR: Lisa Zeno Churgin
MUSIC: Mark Isham
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Missy Stewart
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: BVI
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 6, 2003
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE
VIDEO RELEASE: July 23, 2003