Moonlight Mile

Believe it when they tell you to write what you know. Director Brad Silberling made the cartoon adaptation Casper and the glossy Wings of Desire Americanization City of Angels before returning to the screenplay he'd written years earlier for this, perhaps the most moving and undeservedly overlooked Hollywood film of last year (on disc March 11).

In the doe-eyed "making of" doc that's an extra here, you get the usual "labor of love" puff quotes about the project, but for once the sentiment seems right. The story of twentysomething Joe (Jake Gyllenhaal) and his awkward bonding with the parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon) of his recently slain girlfriend, Moonlight was inspired by Silberling's own experiences after a stalker murdered his girlfriend, TV actress Rebecca Schaeffer, in 1989. Silberling's personable commentary touches warmly and sometimes comically on that heartbreak without getting bathetic; he says calmly that he wanted to explore "the most incredible journey of trying to forge relationships when the common thread is gone." He's got a sensitive Gyllenhaal with him on another track to help him delineate that journey. In his commentary, Hoffman offers astute, touchingly genuine praise of what makes the movie shine yet humbly leaves his own performance out (though his unmannered poignancy as bereaved father Ben is his best work in years). Also included are several appealing deleted scenes, made more interesting when accompanied by the director's reasons for cutting them.

Silberling explains at one point that he hoped to achieve "the purest look at my own sensibility on-screen." Mission accomplished. - Steve Wiecking

Also out March 11, Below is a tight little supernatural submarine thriller, set in WWII, that definitely merits a look. The noirish French kidnapping drama Alias Betty pulls together with an ingenious, clockwork conclusion. There's nothing to recommend about Inspector Gadget 2 or Swimfan (with Seattle-born Erika Christensen). I Spy? Stay away. The Oprah-endorsed chick flick White Oleander boasts strong, nice performances by Alison Lohman and Michelle Pfeiffer (plus an affecting supporting turn from René„ Zellweger at the end). And the 1951 sci-fi classic The Day the Earth Stood Still has a commentary from 89-year-old director Robert Wise. - Eds.

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