A young man lingers in the family home of his fiancee, after her accidental death. While grieving along with her parents and drawn into legal issues presented by a district attorney seeking justice for the family, he finds himself falling in love with another woman, against his own best intentions.Written by
Eileen Peterson, unit publicist
Written and Performed by David Bowie
Published in North America by Jones Music America (ASCAP)
Administered by Arzo Publishing and Published by Colgems-EMI Music, Inc. (ASCAP)
Courtesy of RZO Music Inc. See more »
flawed but compelling family drama
In `Moonlight Mile' a middle aged couple, along with their prospective son-in-law, attempt to come to terms with the sudden, senseless murder of their daughter right on the eve of her wedding. Oddly enough, considering the grave nature of the subject matter at hand, it is amazing just how upbeat and sunny much of `Moonlight Mile' turns out to be. This is a film about death that does not come across as lugubrious and morbid though often at a price. We occasionally sense that it is avoiding the ugly darkness of the subject it has chosen to tackle. Perhaps the film's cheery, optimistic tone is just that spoonful of sugar we need to help the medicine go down.
Writer/director Brad Silberling certainly knows whereof he speaks. He based his tale on the death of his own girlfriend, actress Rebecca Schaeffer, who was slain by a crazed fan in 1989. As a result of his personal experience, Silberling is particularly adroit at dramatizing the utter inadequacy of people's responses to grieving loved ones. He captures with dead-on accuracy the superficiality and hollowness of the clichés, shibboleths and expressions of concern proffered, however well intentionally, in the name of `compassion' and `understanding.' Silberling shows that, in a time of grief this all-encompassing, a family unit must turn in upon itself, shutting out the rest of the world in the process.
This is what happens with the Floss family. Ben and JoJo can speak openly and frankly about their daughter only with each other and with the young man, Joe, who was on the brink of becoming a member of their family and who not only lives with the couple but is all set to become a partner in Ben's commercial real estate company. In a way, Silberling has set a difficult task for himself right from the start. By choosing to not show us Diana before her murder, we find ourselves unable to sense the void her death has left in the lives of these three people. We are caught a bit off guard by the strangely casual tone of the opening sequences in which the family prepares for and attends the girl's funeral. Ben, JoJo and Joe all seem to be taking this shocking death a bit too much in stride. It is hard for us to believe that she has only been dead for three days when the story opens. Yet, on the other hand, we know that people do often manage to find amazing stores of inner strength that help them get through the early stages of a person's death only to collapse into grief once the funeral is over and all the guests have gone home. This happens to be the case here though the moments of despair in this film never plunge quite to the depths of those in, say, `Ordinary People.' In fact this might almost be called `Ordinary People-Lite,' a film about grief for a mass audience that doesn't want to be too disturbed by the experience.
That may sound like a more negative assessment of the film than I am trying to convey, for `Moonlight Mile' is an often sharp and incisive piece of moviemaking, intelligently written and beautifully acted by Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Ellen Pompeo as the postal worker who falls for the grieving husband-to-be. Set in New England in the 1970's (for no reason I can fathom, actually), the film is really the story of Joe and his coming to grips with the reality of his situation. Essentially weak-willed and eager to please everyone about him, Joe has to decide whether to allow himself to become absorbed into the lives and world of this couple functioning almost as their surrogate child or to break away from this co-dependency and strike out on his own, with or without the new woman in his life. The film deftly balances a number of seemingly conflicting moods and tones, as moments of subtle satire and lowbrow slapstick yield to scenes of searing drama and heartbreaking emotion just as in life. Admittedly, the end of the film may be a bit too neatly arranged and upbeat for this particular material, but the extraordinarily skilled and gifted cast makes us believe it anyway. One might wish for a bit more grit and messiness in the presentation, but `Moonlight Mile' which has been exquisitely photographed, by the way still has the power to move us.
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