Main cast: Jake Gyllenhaal (Joe Nast), Dustin Hoffman (Ben Floss), Susan Sarandon (JoJo Floss), Ellen Pompeo (Bertie Knox), Holly Hunter (Mona Camp), and Dabney Coleman (Mike Mulcahey)
Director: Brad Silberling
It is not nice to say bad things about a movie based on Brad Silberling’s own experiences (his girlfriend was murdered in 1989), but Moonlight Mile is a good movie ruined by an uncharacteristically sentimental last leg. During this moment, the hero Joe Nast becomes Mr Silberling’s Marty Sue to preach and preach and preach and I want to cringe.
Ben and JoJo have to deal with the brutal death of their daughter, and they do so by taking in their almost son-in-law Joe Nast and treating him as if he’s part of their family. But Joe has many things he must tell them if only he can find the courage to do so, and things become really complicated when he falls in love with another woman, Bertie.
Susan Sarandon’s portrayal of JoJo is easily the best thing about this movie, while Dustin Hoffman’s performance is a little on the lightweight if still effective side. JoJo’s caustic yet vulnerable quiet scenes are the most heartbreaking moments in this movie. But problems arise when Mr Silberling, who also wrote the script, begins making Joe the hero. Joe is not worthy to be a hero, in fact, he is a coward. Yet he has Joe turning into an out-of-character Mr Fix-It Epiphany Bestower, the irony here being that Joe’s epiphany is the weakest of them all. This movie tries to make heroes out of human characters, but the abrupt transition of Joe from human to deus ex machina is very jarring.
On a personal bias, I also don’t like Jake Gyllenhaal’s raccoon-eyed make-up or his irritating monotonous face that makes Tobey Maguire come off like the most animated actor around.
Another weak link is Bertie. She is written so poorly as the stereotypical damsel in distress needing Grand Joe’s love and salvation, and I really groan when Silberling shifts the blame on her problems with Joe onto solely her.
So in the end, what could have been a bittersweet tale of healing is turned into a one-man Joe show. Joe saves the day! Joe wins the gal and teaches his almost in-laws a thing or ten about life! What does Joe learn out of this, I wonder? I doubt even Mr Silberling knows. Moonlight Mile would have been so much better if Silberling hasn’t let his emotions take over and turn his movie into a one-man preach fest hour.