×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Serious Moonlight

A less-than-frothy domestic showdown owes as much to Edward Albee as to Nora Ephron.

With:
Louise - Meg Ryan Ian - Timothy Hutton Sara - Kristen Bell Todd - Justin Long

Many women would probably like to duct-tape their unfaithful mates to a toilet bowl, but watching it happen isn’t quite as funny as it sounds — at least, not in “Serious Moonlight,” actress Cheryl Hines’ adaptation of the late Adrienne Shelly’s screenplay. A less-than-frothy domestic showdown starring Meg Ryan and Timothy Hutton, it owes as much to Edward Albee as to Nora Ephron, with an occasional nod to “A Clockwork Orange.” Sentimental interest in the work of Shelly (“Waitress”), who was murdered in 2006, will likely find the film a theatrical home, but it’s far too brittle and shrill to win much love.

There’s a marital Armageddon going down in the home of Louise (Ryan) and Ian (Hutton), two unhappy suburbanites with different agendas, although only one of them seems to know it. Louise is a high-powered attorney with a cell phone permanently attached to her ear (a Bluetooth being far less effective as a film prop) and is apparently oblivious to the fact her marriage is in such disrepair that Ian would be planning an escape to Paris with a much younger girlfriend, Sara (Kristen Bell). When Ian refuses to listen to reason, such as it is, Louise knocks him out with a flower pot, trusses him up, tapes him to the toilet and tries to argue him back into loving her.

Helmer Hines (best known for her acting in “Curb Your Enthusiasm”) exhibits very little visual flair in relating the meltdown of Ian and Louise — the framing is stilted and predictable. But the premise of the script, which seems more suited to the stage, is so spatially constrained it really doesn’t offer Hines much opportunity.

“Serious Moonlight” takes place largely in the couple’s upstairs bathroom, while drunken burglars led by Todd the gardener (Justin Long), who also ties up Louise, ransack the downstairs area. When Ian misses his plane, an irate Sara arrives, and is likewise bound and, unfortunately, not gagged. The verbal three-way should have been a lot wittier than it is, although Ryan manages, through sheer timing, to turn a lot of lines into laughs.

The twist at the end of the film absolves Hines for some of what has come before, although it’s still too little, too late. It doesn’t make the film’s uglier aspects any prettier — after Todd has taken the women hostage, there’s a palpable threat of rape and even some molestation, with an impotent Ian screaming from the toilet bowl. Given the presence of Hines, Ryan and the legacy of Shelly, who always brought a bright comedic touch to things (including “Waitress,” which was sometimes serious, but mirthful), “Serious Moonlight” will be perceived as romantic comedy. It doesn’t qualify — and makes one wonder, too, if the screenplay was really finished.

Serious Moonlight

Production: A Night & Day Pictures and All for A Films presentation. (International sales: the Film Sales Co., New York.) Produced by Andy Ostroy, Michael Roiff. Executive producers, Cliff Chenfeld, David Graff, Dan Katcher, Todd King, Rick Milenthal, Dawn Porter, Isabel Rose, Todd Stein. Directed by Cheryl Hines. Screenplay, Adrienne Shelly.

Crew: Camera (color), Nancy Schreiber; editor, Steven Rasch; music, Andrew Hollander; production designer, Cecil Gentry; set decorator, Shirley Starks; costume designer, Ariyela Wald-Cohain; re-recording mixers (Dolby SRD), Larry Benjamin, Kevin Valentine; casting, Sunday Boling, Meg Morman. Reviewed at Tribeca Film Festival (Encounters), April 25, 2009. Running time: 84 MIN.

Cast: Louise - Meg Ryan Ian - Timothy Hutton Sara - Kristen Bell Todd - Justin Long

More Scene

  • Charlize Theron speaks at the GEANCO

    Charlize Theron Talks 'White Privilege,' Growing Up During Apartheid in South Africa

    Charlize Theron, during an onstage discussion with her “Gringo” costar David Oyelowo about philanthropy at Thursday’s annual fundraiser for Nigerian children’s educational and health program GEANCO, said she was a beneficiary of “white privilege” while growing up in Apartheid-torn South Africa. “I obviously am a white person who benefited from my white privilege,” Theron said [...]

  • Lyliana Wray, Sam Ashe Arnold, Miya

    ‘Are You Afraid of the Dark’ Revival Team on Living Up to the Series’ Legacy

    The 2019 revival of “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” centers around the Carnival of Doom, a place that star Jeremy Ray Taylor (“It Chapter Two”) describes as “beautiful on the outside, but…in the middle of it, there are definitely dark secrets. Variety caught up with the young star during a carnival-themed celebration at Row DTLA [...]

  • Charlize Theron'The Addams Family' film premiere,

    Charlize Theron Speaks Immigration, Diversity in ‘The Addams Family’

    They’re creepy, they’re kooky, and they’re an allegory for immigration in America.  Charlize Theron discussed the changing face of the nuclear family and her animated film, “The Addams Family,” with Variety at the movie’s recent premiere at the Century City Mall in Los Angeles. “When you think of [the Addams] being around since the sixties, [...]

  • Emma Stone attends the Los Angeles

    Emma Stone Talks 'Cruella' Transformation, New 'Zombieland' Sequel

    Despite inevitable comparisons to Glenn Close’s iconic turn as Cruella de Vil in 1996’s “101 Dalmatians,” Emma Stone teased that her take on the infamous villain in the upcoming “Cruella” movie will be very distinctive. “It comes long before her story,” Stone told Variety at the premiere of “Zombieland: Double Tap” at the Regency Village [...]

  • Gwyneth Paltrow arrives at the 2019

    Gwyneth Paltrow Honored at amfAR Gala

    Gwyneth Paltrow received one of this year’s courage awards at amfAR’s annual gala on Thursday night in Los Angeles. Paltrow’s longtime friends Dan Bucatinsky and Don Roos presented her with the award. “I didn’t prepare anything because I don’t think I really believe in thank you speeches, but I did want to thank amfAR for this,” [...]

  • Variety’s Power of Women Gift Bag

    Variety’s Power of Women Gift Bag: Sneak Peek

    While there are only so many cover honorees, everyone will go home a star this Power of Women Los Angeles. Each guest will receive a large Shopping Tote provided by The Little Market, and screen-printed by Homeboy Industries. Item inclusion ranges from product in entertainment, beauty, health, fashion, and more. Missed your chance to attend? [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content