Magazine article The Christian Century

Stumbling through Moonlight. (Film)

Magazine article The Christian Century

Stumbling through Moonlight. (Film)

Article excerpt

IF THERE'S SUCH a thing as a movie with two left feet, Moonlight Mile is it. Writer-director Brad Silberling wanted to make both a comedy about the clumsy but earnest efforts of coping with a loved one's death and a Vietnam-era drama about how people get on with their lives after loss blows a hole through them. It's possible to do both, but Silberling is too shaky on tone and structure to pull off either.

The opening scenes of the funeral of a young woman, Diana, felled by a crazed gunman in a restaurant, are neither delicate comedy nor lunatic farce; Siberling's approach is broad and blunt. (The major gag in the sequence involves the family dog throwing up at the reception.) And his focus on the feelings of the three principals--Diana's parents, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and Josephine (Susan Sarandon), and her fiance, Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal)--is so skewed here (and throughout) that everyone who expresses condolences to the mourners is depicted as self-aggrandizing or monumentally stupid.

The movie centers on Joe and the limbo state Diana's death hurls him into. He and Diana had moved back to her family home intending that he would join Ben's real estate business. Now Joe feels obligated to go through with it, and to maintain a room in their house while they're grieving. Things get even more uncomfortable for him when he falls for Bertie (Ellen Pompeo), who's in a parallel emotional situation: her boyfriend is MIA in Vietnam.

These two cross paths when Joe goes to the post office to intercept the wedding invitations, sent out just before Diana's murder, and Bertie is the postal worker who helps him dig them out. The romantic-comedy convention of "meeting cute" sounds a sour note in the context of Joe's mourning: we could understand a man whose misery leads him for comfort to another woman's bed, but this scene, which climaxes with the two characters stomping through bags of mail, is incongruously daffy, as if Silberling had forgotten what his movie is about.

Only later does Joe confess to Bertie what he's been afraid to tell Diana's parents that he broke up with Diana just before she died, deciding they were better friends than lovers. The dramatic impulse here is to complicate Joe's scenario, but the revelation is so ill-placed that it comes across as a convenience--it gives Silberling the green light to proceed with Joe and Bertie's romance. …

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