Directed by: Cheryl Hines
Screenplay by: Adrienne Shelly
Starring: Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell, Justin Long
MPAA rating: R
Run Time: 95 minutes
Though mainly known for the “rom-com” films of her younger days – When Harry Met Sally (1989), Sleepless in Seattle (1993) and You’ve Got Mail (1998), in Serious Moonlight, Meg Ryan gives a dark and noteworthy performance as Louise, the strong, sophisticated, high-powered lawyer who has been married to Ian (acted by multitalented Timothy Hutton) for thirteen years.
Living every woman’s nightmare, Louise arrives unexpectedly early at the family country house and finds that her husband is about to leave her for his young blond receptionist, Sara, played by Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and TV’s Veronica Mars and Heroes).
Initially, Louise cries and howls. She then announces that Ian must not leave until he professes his love for her, blithely ignoring Ian’s determination to fly to Paris the next morning with his mistress-receptionist.
So, what’s a girl to do? Louise, ever resourceful, finds yet another use for duct tape -she lashes Ian to the toilet. The following scenes of Timothy Hutton yelling “Lou-ise” and “He-elp” while Louise remains calm and cheerful run a bit too long and leave one wondering where the film is going and when will it get there.
But the action picks up with the unexpected arrivals of an opportunistic, menacing young gardener, played by Justin Long (Youth in Revolt, Funny People, He’s Just Not that Into You) and Ian’s selfish impatient mistress, Sara. These two only serve to complicate the crisis further, while somehow forcing Louise and Ian to evaluate their past and to deal realistically with their future. At the very end of the film, there is a twist that alone is worth the price of admission.
Meg Ryan’s performance is outstanding. In fact, I hardly recognized her. Although I thought initially that she had transmogrified into her role, I later read that she may have visited her cosmetic surgeon a bit too often. In any event, Ryan showed that she could master a mature role, yet still keep the twinkle in her eye.
Timothy Hutton, who first acted as a twelve-year-old on television’s Disneyland, then at age twenty became the youngest actor to win an Academy Award for his supporting role in Ordinary People, remains a versatile and interesting actor (Taps, Daniel, Falcon & the Snowman, Made in Heaven, Q & A, General’s Daughter, French Kiss, Sunshine State and Secret Window). He currently produces, directs and stars in TV’s Leverage. Although he was first-rate in Serious Moonlight, I wished that his role had called for a greater use of his talents.
Cheryl Hines (Waitress, Curb Your Enthusiasm) did a fine job in her feature director debut. The screenplay, written by the talented Adrienne Shelly (writer, co-star and director of Waitress, 2007), is the last script written by Ms. Shelly before her awful 2006 murder.
Serious Moonlight could easily have been staged as a play – only four main characters, one set, lots and lots (and lots) of dialogue and a nice separation among the acts. That said, the film could have been improved by making it less of a play by adding more action, faster pacing and a variety of sets and locations.
Although Serious Moonlight is billed as a dark comedy, I didn’t find anything particularly comical or witty in the film. However, it is nice to see a film made for adults, with fine acting and the amusing last-minute twist that pulls the film together.
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