Location: New Jersey
“Meet Me Under the Moon”
Directed by Robert Benton
Written by Robert Benton
Logan Lerman – Ryan Monroe
Felicity Huffman – Natalie Monroe
Emma Watson – Harriet Skye
Jeff Daniels – Mike Monroe
Frances McDormand – Michelle Thomas
Annette Bening – Lynne Monroe Silverstein Lewis Harrison
Cody Linley – Chris Thomas
Mimi Rogers –Millie Monroe
Martin Landau – Nathan Monroe
Tagline: “When Ryan Monroe’s father died, his entire family was reborn”
Synopsis: “Meet Me under the Moon” tells the story of the most unforgettable summer of Ryan Monroe’s life. It’s the end of April – Ryan is living a quietly great life with his father Neil and mother Natalie in a small town in Massachusetts. He’s got great friends, passing grades, and is constantly honing his basketball skills in hopes of becoming a professional player for the NBA one day.
Then, May arrives. Neil is killed in a tragic car accident, leaving him and his mother heartbroken and lost. Wanting to be strong for his mother, Ryan fights his pain and keeps his cool throughout his mourning. When his father’s funeral rolls around, though, he is shocked to see a whole swarm of unknown people show up. Who are these people? How did they know Ryan’s father? Why is Natalie desperately (and quite obviously) trying to keep them away from Ryan? These people just happen to be the family that had been hidden from Ryan for the past fourteen years.
Immediately seeing how angry her son is and for her own personal reasons, Natalie and Ryan pack up and move out to the small town of Fairview in southern Massachusetts. It’s only temporary, but Natalie feels downright terrible and wants Ryan to get in touch with the town his father grew up in and the family that still lives there. When they first arrive, things are downright awkward and tense, but the family’s quirky members soon grow on him. Uncle Mike is a sweetheart of a guy and with two daughters; he doesn’t have a lot of experience with raising a son. He sees Ryan as the son he and Ryan’s Aunt Millie never had and forms a special bond with him. Then there’s Aunt Michelle who has one kid in college and two in high school. She’s divorced, and she also has the most problems with Natalie and the entire situation. Aunt Lynne is a high profile fashion editor who lives in Los Angeles and has come home to be with her family in this dark time of their lives. She’s been married three times, has no children, and longs to reconnect with the girl she left behind many years ago in her childhood. At the head of the family is Grandpa Nathan, who was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and doesn’t have much time to get to know his missing grandson. Ryan finds comfort in British native and Fairview resident Harriet, who may just be his first love.
As the days go on, Ryan adjusts to this new life and has grown so close to Harriet and the people of this quirky, little town that when it’s time to go, heartbreak fills the screen.
What the press would say:
Robert Benton’s smart, warm, and funny “Meet Me under the Moon” hit theaters yesterday. It’s sure to enchant anyone that takes a liking to brilliant cinema. It may not be entirely original, but it’s one of the best well done films in its category. No director can key into their actors and their actors’ characters as delicately and seamlessly as Benton is able to. His crisp and comfortable directing and writing capture the true essence of a small town in shock, a young boy maturing into a young man, and a family coming together for the first time. It’s a lot to handle, but he pulls it off with ease. Nothing less, of course, is expected from a man who directed fourteen actors into Oscar nominations. The fact that he has seven of his own doesn’t hurt, either.
Benton had some help in making this the phenomenal piece of art it is, though. He was blessed with a plethora of our finest actors and none of them disappoint. Lerman’s Ryan is a truly fascinating character with so many different sides to him that it’s almost surprising that he nails it so well. Jeff Daniels delivers the stand-out male performance, and that fact admittedly took up a lot of the praise I had for Lerman. This is a career best for Daniels, which I thought wasn’t possible after “The Squid & the Whale”. His mannerisms, his breathing, his eyes, and his body language – it’s all there, and a troubled man who has been dying for a son for the majority of his life really shines through. Martin Landau as the grandfather with a fading memory is naturally effective.
The females kick some major butt, too. I remember hearing that Felicity Huffman’s role was much bigger in the first draft of the script, but once McDormand and Bening signed on, Benton expanded their roles and Huffman fell into the background. As crushing as it is, one cannot blame Benton. As the two wildly eccentric Monroe sisters, Bening and McDormand tear up every scene they’re in. McDormand nails the liberal and open-minded Michelle, who is probably one of the best written characters in the film. The way she just morphs into this unhappy and lost woman struggling to forgive once Natalie comes to town is difficult to play, and McDormand gets it. Bening might have a slight edge over McDormand, though. Her character is lost and confused in life and the scene where she realizes that she was a terrible daughter and was never “daddy’s little girl” is the best moment in film this year. I’ve never seen a stronger exchange of acting between two actresses ever before. She could finally take a little Golden guy home for this layered, delicious showcase.
Three and a half stars, out of Four.
THE STUDIO CAMPAIGN:
Best Original Screenplay
Best Actor – Jeff Daniels
Best Actor – Logan Lerman
Best Actress – Felicity Huffman
Best Supporting Actor – Martin Landau
Best Supporting Actor – Cody Linley
Best Supporting Actress – Annette Bening
Best Supporting Actress – Frances McDormand
Best Supporting Actress – Mimi Rogers
Best Supporting Actress – Emma Watson
THE CRITICS’ CAMPAIGN:
Best Original Screenplay
Best Actor … Daniels
Best Supporting Actor … Lerman
Best Supporting Actress … Bening
Best Supporting Actress … McDormand