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Moonlight Mile ****
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Starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, and Susan Sarandon
Directed by Brad Siberling


     "Moonlight Mile" is the excellent film from director/screenwriter Brad Siberling that was released in September of 2002.  While some critics saw the quality of this film, it was mostly passed and forgotten.  The film details the events following the death of the daughter of Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and JoJo (Susan Sarandon) Floss, and fiance of Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) starting with the funeral. 
     Joe is living with the Flosses, bedding in his fiance's room, amongst her pictures and belongings.  The film opens with Joe awakening on the morning of the funeral after a strange dream, the first of several we are witness to.  Joe holds a secret, a lie, that comes to haunt him as he spends time with the Flosses, missing his loved one.  It's that secret that centers the movie.
     The movie is superficially about learning to grieve, and it's very astute at serving as such a film, but it ultimately is a film about finding love in your life.  The script from the director, Siberling ("City of Angels," "Casper"), is deeply personal and plays like an intimate look into the life of Joe's and the Floss'.  Siberling draws from his own experience to paint the script with detail and honesty a film of this nature demands.  His wife-to-be, an actress, was murdered, and he essentially is Joe.
     Joe becomes the crutch for the Flosses, each one confiding in him at separate times, wanting him to be the bridge over the whole that their daughter's death has left them with.  Joe assumes the role, even going into business with Ben.  Along the way, the secret he holds tears away at him and it becomes continuously more difficult for him to come clean.
     Joe forms a friendship with obvious romantic undertones with the local mailroom girl.  It's this relationship that, along with the Floss', makes the story worthwhile for multiple viewings.
     Jake Gyllenhaal has made a name for himself playing young men trying to find their ways in films like "October Sky" and the exceptional 'Donnie Darko."  It was in "Darko" that Gyllenhaal's talents first became apparent to me.  He played the mult-layered charactered with a believabilty that the film required.  "Mile" demands believabilty and he lends his talents to making the film play true beginning to end.  He hardly says anything in this film, but his nonverbals speak volumes of the pain inside him.  He gets his monologues, as do all the main characters, but it's his quieter moments that make me appreciate the actor, character, and the script that serves as the source. 
     Hoffman can play just about anything, but he excells in characters muddling through awkward social situations, apparent in "The Graduate," "Rainman," and "Sleepers."  He's a supporting character in "Mile," but he plays the character as only a great actor could.  He lends honesty to the characters many quirks and plays each emotions as though it was his own.
     Sarandon plays JoJo as an outspoken writer, the ying to Hoffman's yang.  She is the talkiest, but she delivers each line with the honesty and flair such a vibrant character and the movie require.  She's funny, profound, and has the showiest of any of the roles.
     Ellen Pompeo plays Bertie, the mailroom chick.  She plays the outsider, the only one of the main characters that wasn't directly connected to the murdered daughter.  She delivers quips and heartfelt confessions with a vunernability that few young actresses possess.  I eagerly await her next film.
     The film belongs to Siberling, it's his script and direction that carry the film through the tight spots, the spots only talent can squeeze through.  He got fantastic shots and brought such a personal story to the screen ande made it accessible to all.
      It's a great film that deserves your attention. 

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