Combustible Celluloid
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With: Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Shadia Simmons, Erica Luttrell, Matthew Koller, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kathleen Turner, Jon Bon Jovi, Josef Sommer, Scott Wickware, Peter Coyote
Written by: Ellen Simon, based on her play
Directed by: David Anspaugh
MPAA Rating: R for brief strong language
Running Time: 105
Date: 09/29/1995

Moonlight and Valentino (1995)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Weepie Sleeper

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I have a movie rule called the "dead-baby rule." In any film, if someone dies, and then a baby is born at the end of the movie to symbolize the circle of life, I don't wanna hear about it. This is a cheap way of getting audience sympathy without actually having to work for it by creating interesting characters or dramatic tension. (An amendment to this rule is that terminal diseases are also a copout). I expected at any moment in Moonlight and Valentino for a character to get pregnant, or get a terminal disease and die. But as the movie started rolling, a strange thing happened. I started getting involved in the characters. I began laughing at Whoopi Goldberg's antics (something I haven't done in a very long time, as this talented actress has a knack for choosing very bad scripts). Characters that I thought would be one-dimensional began growing other dimensions. In the end, the goopy stuff was kept to a minimum, and the interesting character development won out.

Based on a play by Neil Simon's daughter Ellen, Moonlight and Valentino follows a woman (Elizabeth Perkins) as she deals with her husband's death. It also traces the effect on her sister (Gwyneth Paltrow), her stepmother (Kathleen Turner) and her best friend (Whoopi Goldberg). The husband dies in the first three minutes of the film and we never even see what he looks like. The hospital scenes and weeping scenes are kept to a bare minimum. The movie doesn't even look like a redone play. It has the feel of a screenplay. Jon Bon Jovi has a small role that is the equivalent of a sexy starlet who follows around a hero in a testosterone action movie. He is here to be looked at. He manages to say a couple of lines in clear English, but that's about all I'll give him for acting talent. Even the ending, a midnight vigil in a graveyard, in which each character expounds her true feelings, is kept mercifully short. This is a great weepie, and a rare film in which women get to play women and not stereotypes of women.

Olive Films graced this movie with a 2016 Blu-ray release. It all looks lovely, and a trailer is offered.

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