Serious Moonlight
Even duct taped to a chair, I wouldn’t sit through this film again.

Theatrical Release Date: 12/11/2009
Director: Cheryl Hines
Cast: Timothy Hutton, Meg Ryan, Kristen Bell, Justin Long

I’m a big proponent of taking romantic comedies and turning them on their ear. This year’s “(500) Days of Summer” is the perfect example. The late Adrienne Shelly’s “Serious Moonlight” is not.

While I did enjoy her last film, “Waitress“, the same imbalance between comedy and drama is present and here it falls on first time feature film director Cheryl Hines to take the script and bring it to the screen. As an actress familiar with Shelly’s work (she was in “Waitress”) and an accomplished comedienne, it seems a natural choice. Somewhere along the way, however, things got lost in the translation.

“Serious Moonlight” concerns the marital difficulties of Timothy Hutton and Meg Ryan. He has fallen in love with a younger woman (Kristin Bell) and is planning to leave Ryan for her. In a desperate effort to save their marriage, Ryan binds Hutton to a chair with duct tape and wants to force him back into loving her. Think “Misery” but with more of that emotion being involved in your experience than the actual quality of film.

I don’t necessarily blame any of my lack of enjoyment on any of the cast. Hutton especially manages to make his character believable and relatable. It appears that they all deliver the performances asked of them by the script and by Hines’ direction. The problem is that the tone conveyed never strays from being a nearly unpalatable mix of annoying and frustrating. And here I thought this was supposed to make me laugh or feel for the characters.

As the film continues to go on and on with this charade of seeing Meg Ryan, as a successful lawyer who devolves into someone capable of holding her husband hostage to reignite their love, my patience wore thinner and thinner. Even with the “twist” that comes when Justin Long comes to mow the lawn and Hutton is able to gain his attention in hopes of being freed, I was still more concerned with the film ending so my life could continue outside the theater than anything else. Had I not been a reviewing film critic, this is easily one of the few films this year I’d simply walk out of.

There wasn’t one “joke” I laughed at. There wasn’t one relationship I was rooting for. There isn’t one reason anyone should see this film. And although I fully realize that comedy is one of the more subjective genres to criticize, the sheer lack of logic involved in Ryan’s scheme to save her marriage (which only gets worse as the film unfolds) is mind boggling. Even if you somehow found the humor, your brain would be simultaneously throbbing from the pain of making the characters’ actions make sense.

As such, I’m not sure what audience would end up enjoying this. If you bring a date, you’ll spend more time apologizing for ruining the date than getting onto more intimate “alone time”. If you bring a friend, they’re going to punch you in the face. If you bring a family member, I hope it’s not one you normally invite to holiday dinners. The only reason “Serious Moonlight” escapes the lowest rating possible and ekes out a 0.5 out of 5 is because of the actors. Had Hutton or Ryan phoned it in just a touch more, there would be nothing positive to say whatsoever. Enjoy watching another film because this is an easy one to ignore and let pass into nothingness.