This is a movie about grief and how the loss of a close one can be a near
drowning in a limitless sea of emotional paralysis. When their daughter is
shot in a senseless murder, Ben and JoJo Floss (Dustin Hoffman and Susan
Sarandon) can't find anything right or comfortable in anything anyone does or
says to console them. One thing they do is to latch on to Joe Nast (Jake
Gyllenhaal), their daughters fiance, as a son.
As much to relieve them of their grief as to deal with his own, Joe consents
to live with the older couple, complying with Ben's desire to make him a
partner in his real estate business in the small town. But, Joe's loss is
not what everyone takes for granted. Even though wedding invitations had
been sent out, the marriage between the couple had been broken off.
When Joe runs over to the town's postal station to retrieve the invitations,
he meets postmistress and bar manager Bertie Knox (Ellen Pompeo) a beauty
with a few scars of her own. Though she's attracted to Joe on first sight,
and aggressively pursues a link with him, ultimately she's held back by her
lingering ties to her former lover, the dead marine who owned the bar she
runs like it is a living testimonial to his memory. Another instance of
death paralyzing life and normal functioning.
While parallels are forming, Joe is not a partner in it. His loss wasn't the
same. He's lost a friend; not a wife. Empathy and understanding freeze him
into the emotional paralysis surrounding him.
Jake Gyllenhaal, in the third film we've seen him in this year ("Lovely and Amazing" and "The Good Girl"), is made up
with bangs to complement his round, boyish face and to promote his charm and
attractiveness. At the same time, he plays his role with what is shaping up
to be his patent on passivity. Here is an actor who is content to give the
stage to whoever he's in a scene with. To such an extent that it's almost a
surprise when he engages in an overt act or assertive speech. But, he does,
when it becomes necessary. Just when you think he's a bit too relaxed and
submissive, he comes to life and carries the essential central role of the
movie, albeit perhaps pushing the bitter sweet modality a little too far.
Ellen Pompeo is lustrous and tomboyishly dynamic -- a new face on the scene,
attractive, real, slender as a reed and engaging.
Hoffman, Sarandon and Holly Hunter as lawyer Mona Camp are at the top of
their forms. The two ladies are especially delicious in their respective
roles, better suited to their strengths than we've seen them in recent
The soundtrack is a compilation of classic cuts from the late
60's, early 70's including tracks by Dylan, Bowie, Elton John, Van
Morrison, Jefferson Airplane; a new track by Travis, and more. It's a "solid
~~ Jules Brenner