×

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.

Popular on Variety

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

  • Oscar Menu to Be Almost All

    Oscar Menu to Be Almost All Plant-Based

    The Oscars are getting greener. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced on Monday that it will be offering entirely plant-based menus at today’s Oscar Nominees Luncheon and then in the Dolby Theatre lobbies prior to the 92nd Academy Awards on Feb. 9. The post-ceremony Governors Ball will be 70% plant-based, and 30% [...]

  • 'Little America' Team on Creating Immigration

    'Little America' Team on Creating the Immigration Anthology Series for Apple TV Plus

    Respect and authenticity were the key words at the screening of the new Apple TV Plus series “Little America” on Thursday in Los Angeles. Produced by Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon and inspired by true stories featured in Epic Magazine, “Little America” is an anthology series focused on immigration. For executive producer Sian Heder, [...]

  • 2018 Sundance Film Festival - Egyptian

    Sundance 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Heading to Park City? From intimate dinners and cocktail parties to late night bashes (that end just in time to head to brunch), there’s plenty to keep this year’s film festival attendees out of the cold between screenings. Here is Variety’s ultimate party guide for Sundance 2020:  Popular on Variety Thursday, Jan. 23 “Summertime” Premiere Party [...]

  • BEVERLY HILLS, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 21:

    Jenna Andrews Hosts Zhavia Ward, Lennon Stella at Jed Foundation Fundraiser

    Jenna Andrews, the Canadian singer-songwriter, record producer and executive, hosted a pre-Grammy event in partnership with The Jed Foundation at Alice and Olivia in West Hollywood on Tuesday.  The non-profit Jed is dedicated to protecting emotional health and preventing suicide. The foundation has partnered with high schools and colleges in order to “strengthen mental health, [...]

  • Coldplay - Chris Martin

    Grammys 2020: The Ultimate Party Guide

    Let the music play, indeed. The Grammys are just days away and dozens of parties are happening every night this week leading up to the big day, Sunday, Jan. 26. And the partying continues with several bashes following the ceremony. (All events listed are by invitation only unless marked otherwise; this list is being updated [...]

  • Jared Harris arrives at the 26th

    No, Jared Harris is Not Playing Doctor Octopus in Marvel's 'Morbius'

    The first-ever trailer for Marvel and Sony’s next Spider-man spinoff “Morbius” left comic book fans reeling with theories. While the plight of the main character, Dr. Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) – a scientist dying of a rare blood disease who accidentally turns himself into a vampire – seemed ripped right out of the comics, the [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content