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Moonlight Mile /

Rated: PG-13

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Holly Hunter, EllePompeo 

Directed by: Brad Silberling 

Produced by: Mark Johnson, Brad Silberling 

Written by: Brad Silberling 

Distributor: Touchstone Pictures


Movie Image
Movie Image
Movie Image

WARNING: This review contains minor spoilers.

     Moonlight Mile has a serious concept that is dealt with in a realistic way. Writer/Director Brad Silberling makes the picture feel this way because of his strong and opinionated point of view on the material. He lets the characters stumble upon things when he wants them to, and does this in the way he wants them to; what makes a person a great filmmaker like he is, is when they are able to put a movie together in their own way, even if people don’t like what it is becoming. This is why this film has been getting two types of criticism, that from those who love it to death, and that from those who hate it to death. Moonlight Mile is something you either like or you dislike, and is hard to have so-so feelings for. The emotions that it puts out are very controversial, and are only accepted by those who are open-minded about its material. I loved just about everything and every idea that it gave off, and it was the most enriching time I’ve had at the moves in this entire year. The great story is lit up by wonderful performances from all of the actors, beautiful direction and production, and its realistic approach towards questionable topics.

     Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the most emotionally mixed up person in the universe after his fiancé is killed in a restaurant. He is temporarily staying at her parents’ (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon) house, for the period of time that funerals and mourning are performed. All three are stressed but all in different ways. His would-be mother in law, JoJo Floss (Susan Sarandon), hates when people ask about the death, and just wants for them to stop bothering her, and undergo their own individual grieving processes. Ben Floss (Dustin Hoffman) feels like he must fitfully serve everyone’s individual needs, he answers every one of the countless phone calls from friends and family to offer sympathy, and comforts anyone and everyone who mentions the death. He is so caught up in the emotions of everyone else; he doesn’t even have time to mourn the death of his own daughter. Joe (Gyllenhaal) is confused and traumatized by something very different from his future wife’s parents though. He is hiding a secret that will be taken by everyone else very harshly. Three days before she died, he and his fiancé broke up, but he doesn’t have the guts to tell.

     Have you ever seen Dustin Hoffman smile as hard as he can? If so, you know that it’s impossible to not do the same back at him as well. Whenever he smiled in this movie, it was so broad and giant that I couldn’t help but crack one afterwards. His character, Ben Floss, was surprisingly down to earth and I saw where he was coming from, and was able to perfectly picture his need to please everyone and everything he came across. The way he chose to show Ben’s emotions is something you don’t see everyday in film, a clear explanation of what popularity means to adults. He tries to busy himself, in order to avoid confrontation with the subject of his daughter dying, but when he does come across it in the most hardest of ways, he has no choice but to let his emotions take control of him. For example, when trying to find more evidence about her death, in order to get the killer the biggest sentence possible; he walks into the restaurant she was murdered in. He asks the clerk which seat his daughter was sitting in when murdered, she breaks down in tears and responds “The sixth from the left,” he stares at the old-style stool, and then breaks down. This is not caused by the many feelings he has for his daughter, but by his tremendous need of closure on the subject and his fear of confronting the topic head-on. As an actor, the performance was crystal clear, and proves that age is not a factor in the movie business.

     Susan Sarandon has been excellent in her character choices over the last year. In The Banger Sisters, she plays the groupie turned control freak, Lavina, here she plays the psychologically grieving mother, JoJo, and I won’t even get into her character in Igby Goes Down. This movie lets her exercise the extremely talented way she goes about theater and filmmaking. JoJo Floss is a woman who hates the people who want to help her grieve, but would hate them even more if they weren’t there. She is undecided in every choice she makes, and strangely feels sympathy for her daughter’s killer at times in the film. She feels as though she must be emotionally self-governed, but doesn’t have the strength inside to do so. She wants to be alone, and even feels suicidal at times, but her real feelings about relationships and love shine through in the few moments that she is truly happy. Though JoJo is trapped, the world still feels open to her, mostly because of this recent death she feels uncomforted. To accomplish these most abstract of feelings and emotions, Sarandon had to take chances, and really reach out on a limb; but in the end everything worked out, and like Hoffman, put on one of the best performances of the year.

     I find Jake Gyllenhaal to be about the most likable guy in the industry today. He plays all of the out-there, mixed up type characters; but somehow still seems to be one of the kindest of individuals. In an interview, Dustin Hoffman stated that Gyllenhaal would often space out and miss the simplest of lines such as “ya” and “uhuh”, but nail the hardest of lines. I find this to be quite amusing, because by his cover Jake looks like he would be one of the worst actors on the planet, he has messy hair, a rumpled face, and a lazy look to him; but he really is one of the best new-comers to the business. In Moonlight Mile, The Good Girl, and Lovely and Amazing he was able to create the most colorful and ingenious characters ever seen before. In this film, he even outshined Hoffman and Sarandon put together in some scenes! He plays the confused Joe who has a strong battle with the truth, in a more simply put “to be or not to be” type situation. I can’t say much about the struggles that he undergoes, because in order to do so, I would be giving away some major plot developments. All I will say is that he was extraordinary, as was the cast as a whole. There is not one flawed performance in the flicks entirety that I can think of off of the top of my head.

     To some readers, this comment will be persistently annoying, but I just have to mention it; but first I must give you a little background information. My history teacher obsesses over post-it notes and treats them like they are god. Everything he marks, presents, or simply wants to make colorful is covered in post-it notes; he thinks they are a removable alternative to highlighters! This is probably why I find this aspect shown in Moonlight Mile so funny. The post-it was not created until the 1980’s, and its invention was admittedly a mistake (they were meant to have strong adhesive on the back, not non-stick, glue-like material). This movie was set in the fifties, which I can tell just by its look and feel, yet Sarandon’s character has post-its all over her office wall. This is not possible! They weren’t invented until afterwards! I think I’ll baffle old Mr. Fisher with some good post-it trivia tomorrow! I think that’s exactly what I’ll do…Teach the “history” of the post-it notes.

     To conclude my review, I would like to make it clear that Moonlight Mile is by far the best movie so far this year. Three killer performances from Susan Sarandon, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Dustin Hoffman make it the most worthwhile experience you’ll have at the movies for a long time. The in-depth character analysis is both intelligent and deeply touching, because of its well-written and logical scripting. Brad Silberling provided some of the best direction, production, and screenwriting that any one-man-band type filmmaker has done for a long while. Everything was right one. This film should be seen multiple times, but more importantly should be seen by you, the reader, now.

-Danny, Bucket Reviews


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