September 29, 1995 in Seven

‘Moonlight’ Is Too Self-Indulgent

Jay Boyar Orlando Sentinel
 

When bad things happen to talented people, the results may be works of art about the tragedies. But when bad things happen to well-connected people who think they are talented, the results can be as self-indulgent as “Moonlight and Valentino.”

Ellen Simon, who wrote the film, is the daughter of playwright Neil Simon - which qualifies her as a well-connected person. And like her father, she is a writer, which suggests that she thinks she has talent.

Since 1988 - when Simon’s husband was killed by a car while jogging - she also has been a person to whom something very bad has happened.

Her “Moonlight and Valentino” is a “dramedy” directed by David Anspaugh (“Hoosiers,” “Rudy”), based on a stage play that Simon wrote the year after her husband’s demise. It’s the sort of self-pitying thing that a lot of people might write after a tragedy - and then tear up when they’ve regained some perspective.

Elizabeth Perkins (Wilma in “The Flintstones”) plays Rebecca, the young widow, with Whoopi Goldberg cast as her best friend, Gwyneth Paltrow (“Seven”) as her younger sister and Kathleen Turner as her former stepmother. After Rebecca’s husband dies, the women rally ‘round, offering support and getting on each other’s nerves.

Frankly, they got on mine, too.

I don’t know what struck me as most self-indulgent: Rebecca (a poetry teacher) assigning her class to write a poem without words or Rebecca’s sister requesting detailed advice about how to moan during sex or the young hunk (Jon Bon Jovi) who paints Rebecca’s house at night, explaining that in the dark he “could be anyone, painting anything, anywhere.”

By the time the film reached its final scene - in which the women paint their faces at a cemetery and confess their deepest, darkest feelings - I found myself wishing that I could be anyone else, watching anything else, anywhere else.

MEMO: These sidebars appeared with the story: “MOONLIGHT AND VALENTINO Location: Newport cinemas Credits: Directed by David Anspaugh, starring Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kathleen Turner Running time: 1:44 Rating: R

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Moonlight and Valentino:” Michael Rechtshaffen/The Hollywood Reporter: Delicately written and tenderly performed, “Moonlight and Valentino” is a bittersweet take on overcoming grief. That said, the picture is far from a downer. The loosely autobiographical script by Ellen Simon is both poetically poignant and fall-down funny, providing its quartet of leading ladies with richly drawn roles. Critical praise and Oscar consideration is a given. Chris Hewitt/St. Paul Pioneer Press: The movie hits rock bottom when Perkins, who has been hiding A Terrible Secret, decides to spill what guts she hasn’t already plastered all over the place. Why didn’t she do that 90 minutes earlier and save us all a lot of trouble? Cuz then there’d be no movie. … Presumably, Simon saved her best material for her stand-in, but Perkins’ part makes no sense. At one point, she sleeps for two solid days, except she wakes up wearing a different outfit than she dropped off in, so I guess we’re supposed to think she was too grief-stricken to do anything but change from one stunning hand-knit sweater into another. At least she’s spared the indignity of the movie’s finale, in which the characters put on war paint and head to the cemetery to stage an embarrassing seance/group encounter session. Believe me, you don’t want to go there.

These sidebars appeared with the story: “MOONLIGHT AND VALENTINO Location: Newport cinemas Credits: Directed by David Anspaugh, starring Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Gwyneth Paltrow, and Kathleen Turner Running time: 1:44 Rating: R

OTHER VIEWS Here’s what other critics say about “Moonlight and Valentino:” Michael Rechtshaffen/The Hollywood Reporter: Delicately written and tenderly performed, “Moonlight and Valentino” is a bittersweet take on overcoming grief. That said, the picture is far from a downer. The loosely autobiographical script by Ellen Simon is both poetically poignant and fall-down funny, providing its quartet of leading ladies with richly drawn roles. Critical praise and Oscar consideration is a given. Chris Hewitt/St. Paul Pioneer Press: The movie hits rock bottom when Perkins, who has been hiding A Terrible Secret, decides to spill what guts she hasn’t already plastered all over the place. Why didn’t she do that 90 minutes earlier and save us all a lot of trouble? Cuz then there’d be no movie. … Presumably, Simon saved her best material for her stand-in, but Perkins’ part makes no sense. At one point, she sleeps for two solid days, except she wakes up wearing a different outfit than she dropped off in, so I guess we’re supposed to think she was too grief-stricken to do anything but change from one stunning hand-knit sweater into another. At least she’s spared the indignity of the movie’s finale, in which the characters put on war paint and head to the cemetery to stage an embarrassing seance/group encounter session. Believe me, you don’t want to go there.

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