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The Bottom Shelf #133

11.08.2007

Grief and MILFs. They go hand in hand more frequently than topless chicks in B-horror flicks. I'm still trying to figure out which is the better combo.

MOONLIGHT MILE (2002)
Directed by: Brad Silberling
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Susan Sarandon

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

I have a thing about starting a book. Even if I hate the first few pages of it, if I find it to be utter crap, I force myself to finish it so that I don't feel like I've wasted even the brief amount of time that it would have taken me to read even that small bit. I've got a similar view when it comes to movies, mainly since I've found that there have been many which have started out slowly and built up speed. Of course, there have been others where I've waited and waited for something to happen in order for me to not feel like I've wasted my time only to never have that pivotal moment come. MOONLIGHT MILE takes its time digging in. After watching Sarandon in the abysmally poor ELIZABETHTOWN, I started to fear that it was a repeat of sorts (in reverse, considering that this movie was released 3 years prior to the Crowe movie) and I mentally started trying to figure out what I could do to gain back the time that I was going to feel was wasted. But much like a sports figure in whatever sport with whatever term that I don't know because sports bore me, the film finds a way to score points with time running down on the clock.

The film centers around a mother and father whose daughter has just been murdered at the local diner. She wasn't the intended target but merely an innocent bystander in the way of the wrath of a jilted husband aiming to take down his waitress wife. The family is consoled by the daughter's fiancee who had been planning to live and work in the town once they were married. The grieving seems fractured at best, perhaps reflective of the time frame (the film has a fuzzy feeling of late '60's to early '70's), perhaps reflective of the socio-economic demographic. In any case, no one seems to be handling what's been going on with what might be considered appropriate under the circumstances. The dad, a commercial real-estate agent, dives into work while the mother, a writer, develops a block and takes up her previously broken habits of drinking and smoking. The fiancee's feelings of obligation deepen and take on a different shade of strange when he starts to fall in love with the woman working at the post office.

That's where the movie finally begins to take off. Once Gyllenhaal drops the stone face (to the extent that he can - the kid seems to believe that looking morose is the way to actively portray drama) and opens up to the post mistress (Ellen Pompeo, in a great turn), a woman with a lost love of her own, you finally begin to feel as if you're looking behind the curtain and seeing the real beast in waiting. A somewhat surprising declaration is made and you finally begin to understand why Gyllenhaal is doing what he's doing, allowing for everyone else involved to break down and show some emotion. The film's pretentious start is off-putting and for those who prefer a little action with their drama, you're not going to get it. But if you've ever known someone who died tragically, the movie ends with that feeling of a burden lifted. We all find different ways to get to that place, so I suppose we all start in different places as well.

Favorite Scene:

When Gyllenhaal is having dinner at Dabney Coleman's place and explains why he's still involved with "all of that."

Favorite Line:

"When I go to bed at night I do 4 things. I drop my robe, slide under the sheets, turn on my left side and stick out my ass. That's it. That's the signal. I just - I back it right up there because I know when I do, no matter how cold the damn thing is, no matter how difficult it might feel, no matter how desperately we want to kill each other it's gonna be met by this warm body on the other side that's gonna hold it. Two arms that... wrap around, pull me out of my head, quiet the voices, save me from myself... without ever having to ask. Every night, 31 years. Every night there's my ass and every night... he never lets me down."

Trivia Tidbit:

The movie is loosely inspired by writer/director Brad Silberling's own experience. He was dating actress Rebecca Schaeffer at the time she was killed by an obsessed fan in 1989.

See if you liked:

GARDEN STATE, IGBY GOES DOWN, THE GOOD GIRL

IMAGINARY HEROES (2004)
Directed by: Dan Harris
Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Emile Hirsch

-- click here to buy this DVD at Amazon.com --
-- click here to rent this movie at NetFlix.com --

One of my biggest pet peeves with the state of American media is the proliferation of images that we wouldn't have seen even 10 years ago. I suppose we could all go back to OJ Simpson and blame him for people caring about the deaths of people that they might not have even known about prior to the news reporters getting their hands on them. Since then, we've turned into a nation of people who presume and judge the innocence and guilt of people that we have no prior first hand knowledge of. We think that they're not showing enough remorse, not crying enough. We figure that if it had been one of our relatives than we would have reacted much more strongly, or at the very least, different from what we're seeing.

That's where people might have a problem with IMAGINARY HEROES. It focuses on a family whose middle child is a medal-winning swimmer, poised for the Olympics and yet loathes the sport and harbors suicidal thoughts. When he is discovered dead by his own hand, everyone within the immediate family reacts in different manners. No one goes into histrionics, much like one would assume when watching a movie about a suicide. Instead, there is a much more realistic view of a family in pain and writhing in crisis. From a mother who identifies more with her youngest son and treats him more as a friend than a child to a father who hides his grief from the people who matter the most to a college-enrolled sister who just avoids the family altogether.

Weaver is really the backbone of this movie, defining what the term MILF was meant for. She's smart, funny and strong yet at the same time is realistic, open and honest in a way that most mothers aren't. There are secrets which eventually are revealed within the course of the film, but they are never to the extent that you spend the majority of your time trying to figure them out. By the time that they're revealed, they're not all that surprising and you don't feel like you've been hit over the head with a brick but things do make more sense. We really shouldn't judge people on their displays of grief, considering that most people aren't open enough with their own families to put on a proper picture of the human being inside the skin. As is said in the movie, when you meet your heroes you discover one of two things, either they're an asshole or they're just like you. Chew on that for a little while.

Favorite Scene:

When Weaver goes into the convenience store looking to buy some Zig Zags and gets a lesson from the clerk on how to roll a blunt.

Favorite Line:

"Do you love her?"
"I don't know."
"Then you don't, Tim."

Trivia Tidbit:

Actor Ryan Donowho, who plays Kyle in the movie, is famous in the streets and subways of Manhattan as a bucket/drum player as well as being remembered for the now defunct television show "The O.C." He's been quoted as being in movies and on television and yet still being completely broke.

See if you liked:

ORDINARY PEOPLE, GARDEN STATE, TRANSAMERICA

I probably would have included Weaver in SNOW CAKE, but that was released very recently. Still, it's Bottom Shelf material considering that it's an independent movie which is unbelievably good and most people I've talked to haven't heard of it. So look for that one as well.

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