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Moonlight Mile (2002)

 

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon, Ellen Pompeo, Holly Hunter
Director:
Brad Silberling

Rating: PG-13

Studio: Touchstone

Review Posted: 4.06.03

Spoilers: None

 

Reviewed by Dennis Landmann

 

Synopsis

 

A young man (Gyllenhaal) lingers in the family home of his fiancée after her death. While grieving along with her parents (Hoffman, Sarandon) and drawn into legal issues presented by a district attorney seeking justice for the family, he finds himself falling in love with another woman (Pompeo) against his own best intentions.

 

Critique

 

After 1998’s City of Angels, Brad Silberling directed one episode a piece on Felicity and Judging Amy. Three years later he comes out with a writing/directing credit on Moonlight Mile, a worthy and heartfelt drama.

 

Moonlight Mile takes place sometime in the past, but its subject matter is not restricted to a timeframe. It is the subject matter, or rather the drama of the story, that makes this film so great. The success of the film really comes from Jake Gyllenhaal’s extraordinary and low-key performance as Joe Nast, the main character modeled after Brad Silberling’s own experiences as a young adult. Supporting Gyllenhaal are Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon as his fiancée’s inseparable, yet conflicted parents Ben and JoJo. It is equally important to note newcomer Ellen Pompeo as the woman who befriends Joe. The interaction of their romance and Joe’s responsibility to Ben and JoJo is the conflict that drives the drama in Moonlight Mile.

 

Silberling’s writing and directing seem perfect, yet some elements within the story moved a little too slow. Despite the overall slow pace of the film, Moonlight Mile succeeds to accentuate and realize a family’s time of dealing with the death of a loved one and life after the tragedy. Great performances and a great script are two basic ingredients to a successful drama, both of which Brad Silberling accomplished to a very good degree. In other words, Moonlight Mile is a very good film that appreciates life but offers an incredible look at what happens during the time of death. Its outcome might be fictional, but its intention is very real and close to home.

 

8 out of 10

 

>Read Sara M. Fetters' Film Review!

 

The Video

 

Moonlight Mile is very concentrated on preserving the colors of the story’s timeframe. Set sometime in the 1980s I’d assume, much of the colors consist of yellow, brown, and red. Color detail is pretty good and much of the video is devoid of scratches or dark spots.

 

8 out of 10

 

The Audio

 

Sometimes there is a very good film that doesn’t rely on its audio presentation yet it is outfitted with Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Not much can be said about the quality per se, but I will say that the experience while watching the film was neither impacted nor deterred by the Dolby Digital track. The film simply does not have the kind of material to make much use of such a track, but the presentation served pretty decent.

 

7 out of 10

 

The Extras

 

Commentary by Brad Silberling / Brad Silberling, Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal – These two separate commentaries are worth checking out. In fact, the second one is pure fun. These three guys talk you through the film so well that you wish you could be there with them laughing, complimenting each other, etc.

 

Deleted Scenes w/ optional Director’s Commentary – Almost all of these scenes are rightfully out of the film. Apart from Silberling’s well-made comments, you can deduct yourself why these got cut. I don’t mean to say the scenes aren’t any good, but they wouldn’t have worked in conjunction to the final product. Especially gracious of Silberling is the “Moonlight Mile Montage” of shots that just didn’t make it into the film anywhere.

 

Moonlight Mile: A Journey To Screen” Featurette – Here you have a 20-minute interview-driven behind-the-scenes look at the film. It’s worth checking out once at least, but after about ten minutes I just fast-forwarded through the rest. Nevertheless, this featurette was well written, narrated, and produced.

 

Missing here is the Theatrical Trailer, but we do get English and Spanish subtitles.

 

8 out of 10

 

Overall

 

Moonlight Mile is one of the year’s most emotional and well-made films. Fueled by great performances from the entire cast, a stellar script, decent video and audio transfers, and a set of deserving special features, including a really good commentary, this DVD is worthy to consider "buying." If drama is not your area then I'd at least "strongly consider" renting the DVD.

 

Overall DVD Rating: 8 out of 10

 

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