Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
USA, 2002. Touchstone Pictures, Hyde Park Entertainment, Reveal Entertainment, Gran Via, Punch Productions. Screenplay by Brad Silberling. Cinematography by Phedon Papamichael. Produced by Mark Johnson, Brad Silberling. Music by Mark Isham. Production Design by Missy Stewart. Costume Design by Mary Zophres. Film Editing by Lisa Zeno Churgin. Las Vegas Film Critics Awards 2002. Phoenix Film Critics Awards 2002. Toronto International Film Festival 2002.
After a middle-aged couple (Dustin Hoffman, Susan Sarandon) lose their daughter to murder, they find their lives are at a standstill while they look for something to help them move along. Their daughter’s fiance (Jake Gyllenhaal) is in a similar position, unable to sort out his feelings long enough to decide what to do next. This slow-paced, tragic drama is well-intentioned but burdened by the shoddiest screenplay, with writer-director Brad Silberling trying hard to make an entire film out of small moments but never succeeding. Instead he clunks from scene to scene, making every tangent of the plot (of which there are too many) feel completely superfluous: Hoffman’s using a professional partnership with his almost son-in-law to get through the pain of his loss is at turns laborious and totally disaffecting, while Sarandon’s trying to work through writer’s block is brilliantly performed but dramatically shallow. The only hint of light shines in the character played by Ellen Pompeo, a local postwoman who offers Gyllenhaal a new avenue to turn to, bright and effervescent and constantly struggling to keep her simpleminded director from carving her down to a stereotype (which he eventually manages to do). Gyllenhaal tries his best but Silberling’s overly moody take on the character leaves him doing very little else than making big eyes at his fellow cast members and he soon goes from pitiable to completely annoying. Look for a stunning cameo by Holly Hunter, an actor who has such incredible film-acting precision that she makes her too-few scenes as the family’s lawyer in their daughter’s murder case seem so much more important than they really are. Silberling’s ties to the story are sad ones: his screenplay is based on his experiences surviving the murder of girlfriend Rebecca Shaeffer, the star of television’s My Sister Sam, who was gunned down by a crazed fan in 1989 at the age of 21.