Jake Gyllenhaal Joe Nast
Dustin Hoffman Ben Floss
Susan Sarandon Jojo Floss
Ellen Pompeo Bertie Knox
Careena Melia Diana Floss
Director: Brad Silberling
Rated PG-13 for some sensuality and brief strong language
In 1973, Joe Nast was engaged to Diana Floss. They moved back to Diana's hometown and were living with her parents while making wedding preparations. Ben and Jojo Floss welcomed Joe into their family; with Ben offering Joe a partnership in his small commercial real estate business.
Plans change, however, when the unmedicated and estranged husband of a local waitress tries to kill her. Showing up at the restaurant where she works, he shoots her twice in the head, leaving her in a coma. Diana, sitting at the counter between them, is killed. What follows is the substance of this movie.
Joe continues to stay with the Flosses. There is a genuine affection between them. Each is dealing with grief in a different way. Ben tries to focus on work; Jojo is angry at the continual barrage of people intruding on her grief; Joe sees visions of Diana in his dreams. Joe also experiences panic attacks on occasions when people intrude on his personal space – physically or emotionally.
Joe has a secret that is overwhelming him with guilt over Diana's death. The engagement was called off three days before Diana was killed. If he'd called it off months before, she wouldn't have been in that diner on that day and the Flosses wouldn't have lost their only daughter. He'd hoped their friendship would turn into something more romantic, but it hadn't. Diana picked up on these feelings and confronted him. Ben also has a secret guilt; he was meeting Diana at the diner that day, but he was running a little late at the office, just across the street. She had something to tell him, and he felt something was wrong.
The wedding invitations were scheduled for mailing by the printer. Ben asks Joe to stop the delivery at the post office, so as not to upset people by the timing of their arrival. At the post office, Joe meets Bertie. They fish through bins of mail, retrieving all but one of the invitations. Later, she finds the last one and delivers it to the Floss home. Joe offers to give her a ride home, but she asks to be dropped off at Cal's Bar.
A few days later, a couple of Diana's friends drop by the Floss home to pick through Diana's clothes. They take Joe out for a drink at Cal's Bar – where Bertie is “helping out”. He happens to play “Moonlight Mile” on the jukebox, Bertie's favorite song, and she goes to him on the dance floor and they slow dance. He learns Bertie's been helping out at her boyfriend's business, Cal's Bar, in his absence. He went to Vietnam; he's been missing for three years.
Bertie is sensitive, connecting with Joe's grief. Joe is comforted and comfortable with Bertie, but she's upset to find that he hasn't told the Flosses anything about his breakup with Diana or about her. Early one morning, Jojo catches him climbing through the bedroom window, and she realizes everything between Joe and Diana wasn't as it seemed.
The wife of the man who murdered Diana comes out of her coma. She is forgiving her husband and the District Attorney (played by Holly Hunter) is concerned the jury will react sympathetically. She wants Joe to testify, to bring Diana to life for the jury. Rather than painting Diana as a victim, Joe pays tribute to her as a strong and honest person like her mother. Everything about Joe and Diana's breakup comes out on the stand.
The fallout isn't the expected unforgiving parents, but rather a tender and loving connection between Joe, Ben and Jojo. With the trial behind him, Joe takes some romantic measures to reconnect with Bertie and every character grows and matures in this film.
The acting and directing serve the story well. The variety of emotions people experience as they survive grief are the primary focus of the movie. Writer/director Brad Silberling based this loosely on his own experience. He was dating Rebecca Schaeffer at the time of her murder in 1989, when a stalker shot her in her home.
I felt I was watching grief instead of a movie. While it was believable grief and well portrayed, it wasn't what I'd call entertaining. It was like that feeling you have in your home after you attend a funeral – too quiet, everyone's too numb to laugh, and you just want to sleep until you feel better.
Theater Release Date: October 4, 2002
DVD Release Date: March 11, 2003
I paid for the premium movie channel subscription on which I viewed this movie with my own funds.