Elizabeth Perkins, Gwyneth Paltrow
, Kathleen Turner, Whoopi Goldberg
Some weeks after her professor husband is fatally struck by a car, his young widow (Perkins) faces up to cleaning out his office. His desk is littered with the everyday effluvia of academia: papers, notepads and books. "Just give it all to the library," she tells the department head. Then, opening a drawer, she finds a pack of Chiclets and tenderly fingers the sunny yellow box. "I'll keep these," she whispers.
It's a heartbreaking moment, conveying with delicacy that our memories of those we have loved are as often tied to the trivial and mundane as to life's big events, and Perkins plays it perfectly. An actress of gawky grace, she glows brightly in this bittersweet comedy about a woman muddling through her first year of widowhood with the help of her flaky best pal (Goldberg), her controlling ex-step-mother (Turner) and her fragile younger sister (Paltrow, in an adroit performance). Moonlight is directed with a fittingly soft touch by David Anspaugh (Rudy) and is ably written by Ellen Simon (playwright Neil Simon's daughter, who based the story on her own life, see page 83). Although the movie meanders some, particularly in its second half—and the final scene in a graveyard is a major groaner—the film effectively demonstrates the necessity for laughter even in the worst of times. And Perkins is tops. (R)