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Moonlight Mile | Review

Don’t bother bringing the tissues

Film doesn’t dig deep enough to merit viewer sympathy.

Take the white picket fence family and throw a curve ball at them, add the America backdrop of a small town in New England, pick an assemble cast of Oscar winners, throw in a new face or two, add a cool soundtrack to sing along to, select a perfect time to release it upon audiences, and start the television ad campaign by the words “critics agree” and voila!- you have the makings of the archetypal “Oscar”-tagged film.

The similarities between last year’s Todd Field drama In the Bedroom and the Oscar-timely release of Moonlight Mile begin and end with the subject matter, the family dealing with the lose of an adult child and trying to cope. The major difference is that the low-budget indie picture was able to truthfully capture a families’ grief and more importantly, strike a cord within the viewer. Silberling’s script might be symbolically motivated by his own experience with death (his girlfriend, television star Rebecca Schaeffer was brutally murdered) but for some absurd reason he grazes the surface of human suffering with minor crumb-sized screen representations of the Floss family overcoming loss with their feelings of disillusionment, sorrow, seclusion and escapism. By sidestepping the emotional baggage and the mental anguish with these safe bet portraits we uncover a story that does very little in describing the complexities of the human condition.

Part of the blame could be attributed to the poor script and a poorly written protagonist. Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance as the groom to be boyfriend Joe, seems to miss the mark for almost the entirety of the film- the character is rarely put into a position where he must deal with his grief or overwhelming guilt, instead of a dissolute frame of mind, he seems more like this confused teenager wondering if he has a date for the prom…perhaps a hundred somewhat takes under the direction a of Kubrick would given the actor a better chance at unraveling the pressure upon the shoulders of the character making him slightly more believable and palpable. The supporting cast of Dustin Hoffman (Wag the Dog) and Susan Sarandon (Igby Goes Down) make up for their counterpart’s weak performance with some of the more memorable touching moments of the film, especially Sarandon as the mother/writer Jojo with her anti-socialite jive-talk. Hoffman has Mr. Floss the frustrated father and husband adds to the charm of the picture while Hunter plays an effective straight-talking lawyer with a charming grit in her voice.

The film’s subplots of real-estate opportunities and the obscure romance with the town post office employee-a Renee Zellweger type looking girl in actress Ellen Pompeo (Catch Me If You Can) – don’t have enough clutch to carry the film into a heighten dramatic finale-where Gyllenhaal is almost unbearable to watch in the courtroom sequence. Even the book-ended visual pun about the Pepto Dismal misuse runs progressively thin, not to mention the film’s lengthy Almost Famous-like 70’s soundtrack is a little too much to bare for an entire runtime. In short, Silberling’s Moonlight Mile is a film about a moving subject matter, but its artificiality makes the feature an unmoving viewer experience.

Rating 1.5 stars

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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