Movie Review: Moonlight Mile

By Erik Petersen
Movie Magazine International
“Moonlight Mile” chronicles the emotional fallout from the murder of a young woman. Written and directed by Brad Silberling, the film is loosely based on his own real life tragedy. In 1989, Mr. Silberling and the young actress Rebecca Schaeffer were romantically involved when she was murdered by a stalker. Yet despite the personal nature of the story there’s nothing that really imbues it with a sense of originality. Set for some unknown reason in the early Seventies it’s as though the perfunctory symbols of another era were stapled onto a rote drama. The results are less than fulfilling.

The stellar cast includes Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon as the bereaved parents. Their young daughter was brutally murdered and they cling to the most tangible memory they have, her fiancé Joe, played by Jake Gyllenhaal. Despite the weak material Mr. Hoffman still manages to turn in a fine performance. Ever the peacemaker to his outspoken wife, he avoids confrontation at all costs. When his anger finally boils over to quiet rage it’s impressive to behold.

Ms. Sarandon is also good as a sassy writer and hard as nails mother who refuses to be pitied. Still she ultimately falls victim to lame dialogue that has her and Mr. Gyllenhaal reminiscing about the quirky mannerisms her dead daughter had, which naturally topples the writers’ block she’s been wrestling with.

For his part Mr. Gyllenhaal mopes around most of the movie, turning his sad cow eyed glance on anyone who looks his way. He’s staying with his in-laws because he wants to give everyone what he thinks they need. We know this because one of the other characters points it out mid way though the film. It’s that kind of movie. Every character action is fully explained lest the viewer be left with any ambiguity. Still in case there’s any doubt the soundtrack is there to cue us, ‘here’s a poignant moment.’

I must admit I’m especially annoyed by the co-opting of the fantastic Rolling Stones song, used for the title and played during a scene. When done well music can lend an added dimension to a film. I’m reminded of Copolla’s use of music in “Apocalypse Now”, the Wagner score rising to a crescendo during the helicopter attack. However here it’s like an emotional lever used to prop up an otherwise lightweight film and it feels like cheating.

The overall result is a disingenuous film. Which is surprising considering the incredibly rich ground “Moonlight Mile” sprang from. Clearly the story is very personal to Mr. Silberling but in an effort to homogenize it the best elements were lost. What remains is a predictable and flaccid drama, despite the efforts of a talented cast. I’m Erik Petersen for Movie Magazine.
More Information:
Moonlight Mile
USA - 2002