The parents and fiancé of a young murdered woman come together as an ad hoc family to help one another cope with grief and get on with life.
Ben and JoJo Floss' daughter Diana is gunned down only days before her wedding when she accidentally gets in the way of a violent husband-and-wife dispute at a Cape Anne, Mass., restaurant. Her fiancé Joe soon becomes a surrogate member of the Floss family, and the three cope with their grief in various ways. JoJo attempts to avoid all the attention that is being paid the family, and Ben throws himself--and Joe--into a commercial real estate venture that needs big-time developer Mike's support to succeed. Joe, meanwhile, combs through big bins of undelivered mail with postmaster Bertie in an effort to retrieve the 75 wedding invitations that had been sent. Bertie, who in addition to her postal work also helps out in the local bar owned by her missing-in-'Nam-action beau, is also grieving, and soon she and Ben are a couple. As writer-director Brad Silberling's gentle drama unfolds, it becomes clear that the film is a ''hundred-whys'' effort. For a start, why is the film titled Moonlight Mile, a lesser-known Rolling Stones song? It's never explained. And why does the film take place in 1973 when only the film's rollicking soundtrack and a passing reference to the Vietnam War evoke the era? These questions--and the many, many other whys in Moonlight Mile--remain unanswered, resulting in a film that falls as flat as a bad souffle.
The actors in Moonlight Mile, for example, are among the choicest of ingredients--three Oscar winners, a promising newcomer and an almost legendary comic talent. So why is young Jake Gyllenhaal so bland as the sweet, hero-fiancé Joe, so opaque and passive, suggesting nothing of a background, education, or professional aspirations? Why did talented Oscar winners Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon agree to star as the parents, except for the fact that each actor is given the chance to sink his or her teeth into an 11th hour set piece? Why do Oscar winner Holly Hunter (as the tough prosecuting attorney Mona who warns Joe, Ben and JoJo that there's a good chance the perpetrator will get off lightly) and comic virtuoso Dabney Coleman (as gruff real estate developer Mike) squander their talents?
Part of the answer to all the whys Moonlight Mile raises can be found in Silberling's direction. He clearly knows the ingredients Hollywood seems to want these days: nice, recognizable characters in emotionally wrenching situations; some resonance of a bygone period; a soundtrack that will help with the marketing; big-name leads and a compelling young star; a dash of unpredictability and feel-good ending. But as Silberling mixes up this all-too-familiar recipe his strokes create a thin, watery batter that just refuses to rise above cliché. As a writer, he knows the rules, but he skirts wit, irony, humor and convincing raw emotion in favor of the formula, raising more questions than he answers.
Eager to please in spite of its many flaws, Moonlight Mile provides a valuable education for budding filmmakers and marginal entertainment for filmgoers.