Stage and Cinema film and theatre reviews

Serious Moonlight – Meg Ryan – Movie Review




picture - Serious MoonlightFilm Review

by William Gooch

published December 6, 2009


Serious Moonlight

rated R

now playing in select theaters


Recalling the 1985 hit song “If You Love Somebody Set Them Free,”  I don’t believe that tying your philandering husband to the toilet in an attempt to work out marital differences—which is what Meg Ryan’s character in Serious Moonlight does—quite captures the message of Sting’s admonition to lovers; but, then again, I am a literalist.


Adrienne Shelly’s screenplay of Serious Moonlight centers on corporate attorney Louise’s (Meg Ryan) desperate attempt in 24 hours to convince her husband Ian (Timothy Hutton) that their staid marriage is worth saving. And the only way she believes she can accomplish this is by duct-taping her husband to the toilet in their summer home and hashing out the pros and cons of their relationship.  Things get even stickier when a burglar (Justin Long) breaks in and threatens their life.


Serious Moonlight brilliantly examines the emotional state of married couples when the moonlight and the magic have been replaced by familiarity and routine, and one person wants to move on to greener pastures. Shelly expertly demonstrates that two people can be in the same relationship but experience the relationship differently. Ian sees his marriage as stifling while Louise understands that her marriage is not perfect, but she is committed to making it work. And Shelly works out all these emotional tidal waves with a humor and panache that, though entertaining, gives one pause to reflect on why people stay in the trenches of love in the first place.


It is great to see Meg Ryan in a role where she fights for the love of her life —though sadistically—instead of waiting for Prince Charming like in Harry Met Sally or Sleepless in Seattle. Ryan has always had the ability to combine humor and pathos; yet, in Serious Moonlight her character is at times caught between extreme nostalgic romanticist and sadistic prison warden. Still, Ryan finds the balance, due in part to Shelly’s brilliant script and Cheryl Hines’ expert direction.


As Louise’s adulterous ad executive husband, Timothy Hutton is the perfect foil to Ryan’s self-defined power attorney. Though not as career-motivated as his wife, Ian is convinced his aimlessness can be resolved by starting a new life with a much younger woman (Kristen Bell). Hutton superbly portrays Ian as a man who believes he doesn’t have much time left to salvage something out of a life that has formerly not had a lot of direction. Although Louise is obviously the stronger of the two characters in this film, Ian’s willful manipulations demonstrates that there are always two sides to every story.


Can two very flawed people find a way to work through differences and salvage what was once a storybook marriage? Shelly doesn’t give easy answers, but she does peel back the layers and examine if love in the trenches was really about love.


williamgooch @


read the roundtable discussion with Serious Moonlight director Cheryl Hines


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