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Moonlight Mile (15)

Review by: Marc Ashdown | Rating: One

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: 'Moonlight Mile: A Journey To Screen' documentary; Audio commentary with director Brad Silberling; Audio commentary with director and cast; Deleted scenes.

A LACK of decent actors is one thing. A bad script another. But when everything's in place for a decent film, yet the end product's still an overblown, far too long, melodramatic bore, there's really no excuse.

It's hard to pin down exactly why Moonlight Mile doesn't deliver. But despite engaging performances from such stellar thoroughbreds as Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon - anchored to an exciting rising star in the form of Jake Gyllenhaal - it fails poorly.

Set in 70's New England, it pitches Joe Nast (Gyllenhaal) as a young man struggling to come to terms with the recent murder of his fiancée. He'd just moved in with her parents, Ben and Jojo (Hoffman and Sarandon), and determines to stay and support them through their loss at the expense of his own future fulfilment.

Matters complicate when he falls in love with a local postgirl, Bertie Knox (Ellen Pompeo), herself emotionally torn by the apparent loss of her boyfriend; missing for three years in Vietnam.

But it fails to convince throughout. The grieving, especially in the parents, seems all over the place and it loses its way by never really establishing what kind of film it is.

Quirky kitsch? Black comedy? Soapy melodrama? It has elements of a range of genres, but fails to nail a stick to it.

Which is surprising, considering the talent on show. Hoffman and Sarandon are, of course, very good. Both deliver with gusto at opposing ends of the spectrum: Sarandon overtly kooky and outspoken; Hoffman all broody repressed guilt.

Gyllenhaal is also mesmerising and extremely watchable. With better material, he's destined to steal many a film from under the noses of bigger stars. Let's just hope this is a blip and doesn't put the kybosh on a very promising career.

Newcomer Pompeo acts by the numbers, but again, doesn't really get the chance to sink her teeth into anything meaty, due to the clichéd nature of her role. She can also currently be seen in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can, with Leonardo Di Caprio; in which she gets the chance to redeem herself.

Most criminal of all, though, is the near-cameo appearance of Holly Hunter - heavily billed on promotional material as an Academy Award winner, but if bit-part stereotyped lawyers named Mona Camp are all she can muster now, maybe it's time to hand that statue back.

Brad Silberling served up a well-measured, heart-warming and fairly original slice of romantic drama in City of Angels. Sadly, he follows it up with a hackneyed, disappointing, wasteful lump of trite.

The script's not that bad, the setting beautiful suburban 70's America, and the performances certainly acceptable. Yet it slowly drags and sags, where it should zip and transfix.

For me, the worst sin in cinema is boredom. Above all, this is very, very boring. And who wants to pay for that?


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