Genre:  Drama/Romance

Rating:  PG-13

Release Date:  September 27, 2002

Actors:  Jake Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Holly Hunter, Ellen Pompeo, Susan Sarandon, Dabney Coleman

Director:  Brad Silberling

Special Notes:  The director wrote and directed this story that was loosely based on his own experience, so he cast Gyllenhaal because he closely resembled what he looked like at a younger age.

Plot:  Joe Nast (Jake Gyllenhaal) feels like he's living a nightmare when he wakes up to realize his fiancée is dead, and he's at the home of his future in-laws Ben (Dustin Hoffman) and JoJo (Susan Sarandon) Floss to support them through this difficult time.  His fiancée, Diana Floss, was murdered in a public diner by an enraged and angry husband who was after his wife who worked there.  Joe attends the funeral and temporarily sets up residence in the grieving parents' home.  Joe tries to console the two and help them with their grief, but all the while he harbors a secret that ultimately gets him into trouble.  Ben wants Joe to become a business partner, JoJo wants Ben to help her regain her writing skills again, and Joe…well Joe doesn't know what he wants until he meets the local postal worker/bartender of the town bar, Bertie (Ellen Pompeo).  Bertie helps Joe unlock his secret past, and at the same time Joe helps Bertie come to terms with her present.

Good:  This is one of those movies that has a few scenes where you think it's going to be really good because of the seasoned actors (Sarandon and Hoffman bring a parenting experience that adds just the right amount of reality) and intense storyline.  Although the movie does have several scenes that deliver a lot of emotion and drama, there is still a sadness and sort of void in the end.

Bad:  Unless you're a huge fan of Hoffman and Sarandon, you might want to think twice before seeing this movie because it's depressing and a bit void of anything enlightening.  From the very first scene when you hear Sarandon chiding Hoffman who's on the phone with a Rabi to make sure he leaves "God" out of the service (because the daughter wouldn't want to have God anywhere in it), you know you're in for a story void of anything hopeful or redemptive.  And sure enough, when the emotions started to unravel and the mother cries for her dead daughter and tells Joe that she "doesn't know where she is now or how to protect her", I almost wanted to yell out loud, "Well if you would let God in your lives you would know!" 

I fully realize that the world doesn't use God as a solution to its problems.  But when you see a movie where God is blatantly and verbally taken out at the beginning and then people's lives fall apart and they can't understand why, all you can do is feel pity for the characters and suffer through the story with them. So with a few awkward scenes and a few weak words that are supposed to imply there's redemption to the story, basically the audience is left with a sad movie about sad people and a sad ending that's supposed to be a happy one and make you feel like everything's "okay".  If you believe in God, you will walk out of this movie and feel like the story obviously missed an opportunity to show these characters comforted, forgiven, healed, or having hope in something greater than themselves.  Otherwise, what's left is Joe's weak speech at the trial, some frustrated outbursts from Sarandon and Hoffman that end up putting a Band-Aid on their hurt, and an ending that lets everyone "go on" with their lives.

There's lots of profanity ("f" word), mild language as well as an abundant amount of religious profanity with religious exclamations.  Several characters drink, numerous people grieve over the daughter's/fiancée's death (but no body is shown and no graphic flashbacks are shown).  There's some brief and non-explicit sexually related dialogue and a scene where it's implied that Joe and Bertie have sex (they kiss and are shown in bed partially covered under the sheets the next morning).  A couple of other scenes show couples kissing.  Diana is shot and killed by an angry husband who intended to kill his wife, but instead only wounded her.

Advisory:  This is an adult drama that isn't for children or even teenagers because of the mature themes and depressing storyline.  To be truthful, it isn't an uplifting story, so many adults may want to pass on this one as well.

Bottom Line:  I went to this movie expecting more from the story and cast.  I dislike it when directors take the audience on an emotional journey and at the most intense scenes when you need to hear dialogue that resolves, redeems or brings closure to a situation, all you get are stares or glances into the camera.  I feel cheated out of resolution, and I think that's why I didn't enjoy this movie.  There were several scenes that needed verbal resolution, and I didn't feel it resolved anything so much as "glossed" over it.