In a beautifully crafted, emotional drama, 2002’s Moonlight Mile proves to be a unique gem in the Hollywood industry and a contender for my favorite film seen so far.
The story of the film in an intriguing one. Loosely based on Writer/Director Brad Silberling’s own experiences where a crazed fan killed his then actor girlfriend Rebecca Schaeffer. The film is the story of parents JoJo and Ben, played amazingly by Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman, but I’ll get to them later, who’s daughter is killed in a random act of violence. Her fiance Joe, played by Jake Gyllenhaal now lives with the couple and the three of them must move on with their lives, either together, or apart. This set-up has all the makings of a lifetime movie and had predictability written all over it. However, Silberling’s script, and the performance of the actors mentioned previously raise this film to an astounding level. What begins intriguing, ends similarly as each of the main characters have demons and/or a secret that must come out.
Making that plot synopsis sound simple is difficult as there is a lot going on in the film. There are few characters but each of them have wants, needs, they have a past and actions that haunt them. This is for me the cornerstone of good writing. In a movie that’s two hours long, the audience knows about the past of these characters, which makes their present much more effective. What’s so smart about the script is the way the past and the secrets are dealt with. Instead of having one scene where the main character in the scene monologues and overacts, Silberling chooses to cut down scene lengths and reign in the performances of these stellar actors.
Getting to those actors, this is by far my favorite Susan Sarandon performance. In prior films she always seems to be the middle aged woman who remains very sexual and a little country. This performance of a grieving mother in the 60’s is as far away from that idea that I’ve seen her in, other than her legendary performance in Dead Man Walking of course. Even comparing this performance to her Oscar winning role in Dead Man Walking, I feel she’s stronger and more emotionally effective. That performance was in such a heavy movie it made more weight by sheet tone and plot along. Here she’s understated and just damn solid and I love this performance.
While the male actors are solid in the film, I have to give it up to the females. Even Ellen Pompeo who I frankly can’t stand in any other film or TV show, turned in a winning performance. With a character that could be too quirky, too emotional, and too much for this film, she deftly adds quirk and difference in her character but doesn’t overpower the film or try to make each scene she’s in about her. Sometimes in movies that stars align and something great comes out of nowhere. For me, this is the case with Moonlight Mile. I’m in love with this film, it’s fantastic and is most definitely worth a wider audience.