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Thursday, December 3, 2009

MOVIE REVIEW
Serious Moonlight

All Tied Up, Without Being Tied Down


A sticky duct tape situation: Meg Ryan as Louise and Timothy Hutton as Ian in Cheryl Hines' directing debut film
"Serious Moonlight", which opens tomorrow in San Francisco and other U.S. cities.     Magnolia Pictures

By Omar P.L. Moore/PopcornReel.com
Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not as bad on reflection as it actually is for much of its running time, the comedy caper "Serious Moonlight" captures the wild symbolism of being tied up and tied down in a relationship.  At their countryside estate, after confessing that he no longer loves his wife of 13 years, Ian (Timothy Hutton) is knocked out cold and tied to a chair with duct tape by Louise (Meg Ryan), a high-powered Manhattan attorney who struggles to process the news that Ian is leaving her and has fallen for a younger woman in Sara (Kristen Bell).

Shouting matches ensue, and for a while we are held hostage by them (and the film) as Louise and Ian verbally duke it out.  The film is on its shakiest ground in these moments, as if there's little to fill the screenplay, the last written by the late Adrienne Shelly (director of "Waitress").  Cheryl Hines ("Curb Your Enthusiasm"), a co-star in Ms. Shelly's final film, makes her feature film directing debut with "Serious Moonlight", and it brings very mixed results.  With its abundance of full moon-type occurences, the film -- which is one twisted pretzel of a movie -- opens tomorrow in several U.S. cities, including in San Francisco at the Landmark Opera Plaza Cinemas.

In not-so classic "I-went-to-a-fight-and-a-burglary-broke-out" fashion, interventions transpire that complicate mattters to extreme and absurdist degrees but also disentangle them.  Perhaps a strange magic can be found or at least appreciated in the way the disentanglements unfold.  (Later this month director Nancy Meyers will attempt to illustrate the same in "It's Complicated".)  In most instances though, a film like "Serious Moonlight" would be a virtual write-off but with the recent Tiger Woods contretemps raging in the 24-hour cable news-tabloid cycle, among some audiences there will no doubt be an appetite whetted by amusement and joy when watching the film, especially since Ms. Hines' film makes the gossip soup surrounding Mr. Woods very tame indeed. 

Mixing a touch of bondage with grim comedy, the late Ms. Shelly's otherwise spare script vividly but intermittently conjures the wicked and maniacal but unfortunately it's not nearly enough to rescue this film, whose sunny disposition (via Nancy Schreiber's cinematography) doesn't alleviate feelings of audience dissatisfaction.  The film's resolution is dubious, as we don't get a sense that much has really been resolved.  And even if it has, it hasn't been done so convincingly -- albeit with its two lead actors, who could have given (and got) a lot better than they do here.


With: Justin Long, Andy Ostroy, Nathan Dean, Kimberlee Peterson, Derek Carter and Bill Parks.

"Serious Moonlight" is rated R by the Motion Picture Association Of America for  language and some threatening behavior.  The film's running time is one hour and 24 minutes.       

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