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Featured Blu-ray: Serious Moonlight

February 6th, 2010

Serious Moonlight - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray

Cheryl Hines makes her directorial debut with Serious Moonlight. Based on a script by the late Adrienne Shelly, it stars Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell, and Justin Long. That's a lot of talent on both sides of the camera; however, the movie earned weak reviews and quickly disappeared at the box office. Was this an unfair result, or an inevitable one?

The movie starts with Ian (Timothy Hutton) preparing his summer home with rose petals for what one can only assume will be a romantic evening with his wife, Louise, who arrives before he is ready. Unfortunately for the both of them, he's planning a romantic evening with his mistress, Sara, before he leaves with her to Paris. Louise takes this about as well as one would expect... make that much worse than one would expect, and Ian ends up duct taped to the toilet. Things don't get better when Sara arrives and Louise confronts her. And then things take a turn for the tragic when Todd comes by and starts robbing the place.

When Adrienne Shelly was tragically murdered in 2006, she was working on a number of scripts, this being one of them. It was clearly made with a lot of love and with deep regard to its author. Perhaps too much regard. Simply put, the script needed a re-write, especially to find a consistent tone, or at the very least, to create a better balance between the comedic scenes and the more dark ones. With a shifting tone, the actors don't have anchor to ground their performances, and they tend to waver. Parts were very funny, the acting was good, and I look forward to seeing Hines direct again, but I can't be enthusiastic with my recommendation.

On a side note, the final twist felt both telegraphed and improbable at the same time. This is also something that another revision to the script could have cleaned up.

I only have the Blu-ray to review, so I can't say for certain what extras are on the DVD, but none feel like they are high definition exclusives. The first extra is an audio commentary track with Cheryl Hines and the two producers, Andy Ostroy and Michael Roiff. Good chemistry keeps the track lively with little in the way of dead spots. They talk about getting the movie made, how it is a tribute of sorts to Adrienne Shelly and how they were determined to keep her script pure. (They even talk about making sure they got the right number of rose petals and the color of the vase in one scene correct.) The Making of Serious Moonlight runs just over 12 minutes long and discusses the project from its origins to the casting to the filming etc. HDNet: A Look at Serious Moonlight runs five minutes long and goes over a lot of the same elements of the previous two special features. The disc is also BD Live enabled, but so far there is nothing to download. (There is not even a generic page for the studio.)

As for the film's technical presentation, I have no real complaints about the video, but as a dialogue-driven Indie comedy / drama, it is also not something that wowed me. The same can be said of the audio, which is clear but certainly didn't challenge my home theater system. It does only cost 17% more on, so it is clearly the better deal, if you are intent on buying.

The Verdict

Serious Moonlight has an impressive cast, and is a tribute to Adrienne Shelly. I really wanted to like it. However, there were too many flaws for an enthusiastic recommendation and in the end for most people a rental will be enough. If you are going to buy it, the Blu-ray doesn't appear to offer a whole lot over the DVD, but its price is right.

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