Directed by Cheryl Hines. Starring Meg Ryan, Timothy Hutton, Kristen Bell, Justin Long. (2009, R, 84 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., Dec. 11, 2009
Ryan and Hutton play a married couple in this romantic comedy based on a screenplay by actress-turned-director Adrienne Shelly (Waitress), which was left behind in the wake that remained after her shocking murder in 2006. Hines, Shelly’s co-star in Waitress, was invited to direct the feature, in what has become the Curb Your Enthusiasm star’s debut behind the camera. Sadly, something seems to have gotten lost in translation. Maybe the script needed more polish before going into production, the neophyte director more experience, or the cast more guidance. Whatever the cause of the film’s problems, they are there for all the world to see on the screen. The plot is not the least bit believable, and the tone of Serious Moonlight is often stagy and irritating. As the film opens, Ian (Hutton) is penning a note to his wife, Louise (Ryan), explaining that he is leaving her for a younger woman. Louise, a high-powered professional woman, meanwhile decides to arrive a day early at their weekend home to surprise her hubby. That she does, but when she discovers the truth she coldcocks him and ties him to a chair while he’s passed out. After a while, a rapprochement is reached, and she unties him only to knock him out again and tie him to the toilet. Midway through the movie, the romcom back-and-forth is supplanted by a home-invasion storyline, during which more people are conked on the head and tied up. It lends an air of real menace to the proceedings and creates a major shift in tone. It’s great that the couple’s second home has such a big bathroom since the majority of the film’s activity occurs in that space. Ryan uses the opportunity to utilize some of her talent for physical comedy, a skill that has a better showing than her cutesy line delivery. Hutton, for all he brings to the film, could be a crash-test dummy instead of a conflicted husband strapped to the bathroom fixture with duct tape. A twist ending adds another layer of cute to the enterprise. If you want to see a good comedy about a couple’s marital problems getting worked out through the course of a home invasion, check out The Ref.