Case Number 02835: Small Claims Court


Touchstone Pictures // 2002 // 117 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // April 30th, 2003

The Charge

In life and love, expect the unexpected.

The Case

Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal, Bubble Boy, Donnie Darko) has just lost his fiancée. Intelligent, creative Jojo (Susan Sarandon, Dead Man Walking, Bull Durham) and her husband Ben (Dustin Hoffman, The Graduate, Outbreak) have just lost their daughter. All of these people have just lost Diane to a freak accident where she was gunned down at a local coffee shop where she worked. Joe was to have been Diane's husband, but now without her, he feels lost as to what his next step in life may be. Seeing no solutions, Joe settles in with his in-laws-to-be in their spare room and becomes a business partner with Ben in commercial real estate. As Joe desperately attempts to sift through the pieces of his now shattered life, he hides a secret about his relationship with Diane that he fears will devastate both Ben and Jojo. To complicate matters, Joe meets Bertie (Ellen Pomped, Old School), a waitress at a local bar who is also nursing a broken heart after her boyfriend disappeared in Vietnam. Their attraction is instantaneous, but their separate situations complicate matters -- while Ben wants to move on with his life, he feels shackled to his past and a duty to be a sort of surrogate son to Diane's parents. Torn, Joe must attempt to work through his past if he's ever to find his future.

The director of Moonlight Mile knows about loss -- in 1989, Brad Silberling was dating actress Rebecca Schaeffer (My Sister Sam) when she was shot and killed by a deranged stalker. Working through his pain and grief (and forming a bond with Schaeffer's parents), Silberling created Moonlight Mile, a tale of people trying to get past their pain and look into the future with hope. The film features great performances by the entire cast -- Gyllenhaal, Sarandon, and Hoffman all pull off gut wrenching performances that were deserving of Oscar nominations. The pain that these people feel is unbearable, yet the dialogue is strongly comical and often flippant -- through these words, the characters are able to hide from their monumental sorrow. What makes Moonlight Mile a moving film is the way it attempts to find these people homes when all that they've known has been taken from them. Gyllenhaal, a familiar face from the twisting Donnie Darko, shines as a man who doesn't know how to move forward after tragedy strikes. Hoffman and Sarandon find just the right tones in their characters -- Hoffman plays Ben with complete detachment, while Sarandon hides behind her crisp, intelligent exterior. Newcomer Ellen Pomped also fares well as Joe's object of affection, a woman who wears her heart on her sleeve and is dealing with many of the same emotional issues as Joe. Like an onion, Moonlight Mile has many layers that are peeled away slowly. So cryptic is the film at times that at first it almost hides what is going on -- if you were to know nothing about the film before watching it, it would take you a good 15 minutes in to realize that someone has just died. Silberling has made a tender, loving account of what people go through after a traumatic loss. It's in those spaces in-between that we find hope to carry on. Moonlight Mile knows this and isn't afraid to dwell inside those spaces. Recommended.

Moonlight Mile is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Buena Vista has done a fine job of making sure this transfer is crisp and clean of any major defects or imperfections. The colors are all solid and dark without any intrusive grain or edge enhancement marring the image. The only flaw I could spot was in the black levels -- they sometimes appeared a bit too light. Otherwise, this fine transfer should please fans. The soundtrack is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround in English. This is a very apt sound mix that features a few directional effects/surround sounds (subtle, never overbearing) and clean dialogue. The track is nothing flashy, though it works well within the confines of the film. All aspects of the effects, music and dialogue were free of any hiss or distortion. Also included on this disc are English subtitles.

Though the film was all but ignored when the Oscars rolled around this year, Buena Vista has nonetheless added a few extra features for fans to peruse through. Starting off the disc are not one, but two commentary tracks: the first is by director Brad Silberling alone, and the second by Silberling and actors Jake Gyllenhaal and Dustin Hoffman. Both of these commentary tracks are filled with production information about the film, though the tracks lean more towards casting and story than they do technical merits. This isn't necessarily a bad thing -- fans will get a chance find out how the story came about from the director's personal experiences, and what it was like casting the film (he had Hoffman and Sarandon in mind when he was writing the screenplay). The featurette "Moonlight Mile: A Journey to the Screen" is your basic interview piece with the director and stars, and doesn't add nearly half as much as the commentary tracks do. Finally, there are 10 deleted scenes with optional commentary by the director. Each of these scenes is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen and feature extended and cut scenes. None of them is overly exciting, though they do feature a bit more character development than most cut scenes.

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Scales of Justice
Judgment: 89

Perp Profile
Studio: Touchstone Pictures
Video Formats:
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic

Audio Formats:
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)

* English

Running Time: 117 Minutes
Release Year: 2002
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13

Distinguishing Marks
* Commentary Track by Director Brad Silberling
* Commentary Track by Director Brad Silberling and Actors Dustin Hoffman and Jake Gyllenhaal
* Deleted Scenes
* Featurette

* IMDb