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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 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.

This is the kind of film that really benefits from making of features: it’s a complex film about complex emotional issues. Filmmaker Brad Silberling talks about the challenges of casting the film, and the difficulties in casting the role of Joe, which of course, is in fact a younger version of himself. And although Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman were on his casting wish list, he never dreamed that they would agree to be involved in the project. Watching this feature makes me want to watch the film all over again… But there are plenty of other features for lovers of the film – two commentaries and a bunch of deleted scenes that are presented with an introduction by Silberling. 

Published July 24, 2003

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CAST: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Aleksia Landeau, Holly Hunter

DIRECTOR: Brad Silberling

SCRIPT: Brad Silberling

RUNNING TIME: 116 minutes

PRESENTATION: 16:9 widescreen

SPECIAL FEATURES: A Journey to Screen; Deleted scenes with director’s intro; director’s audio commentary; cast and filmmaker audio commentary


DVD RELEASE: July 23, 2003

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