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Moonlight And Valentino Review

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Finding himself with a couple of almost-in-laws as housemates and a few awkward questions that need answering about his feelings for their recently-deceased daughter, Joe is in a bit of a fix.

★★★★★

Of the multitude of femme-orientated flicks among this month's releases, this able comedy-drama, penned by Ellen Simon (daughter of uberscribe Neil) from her own experiences, throws you headlong into the moody world of bereavement therapy.

The widow in question is Rebecca Lott (Perkins) whose life of cosy middle-class domesticity is shattered when her physicist husband is killed instantly as the losing half of a car/jogger interface. And it is her best friend (Whoopi Goldberg), sister (Paltrow) and ex-stepmother (Turner) who rally round offering reams of "helpful" advice.

Light on actual plot, Moonlight And Valentino's main dramatic driving force is the study of the complex relationships between these four very different women, and how death becomes the catalyst for all sorts of personal re-evaluation.

Much hand-holding, navel-gazing, and group hugging around the camp-fire fills the time, before the appearance of rock-star Jon Bon Jovi who, as the cute house painter employed to redecorate Perkins' pad, becomes a charming lust object for the quartet. Unlike many rockers-turned-thesps, he is surprisingly good, playing the handsome labourer with just the right amount of relaxed modesty.

In contrast, Perkins is spiky and irascible in her portrayal of a wife robbed of her husband, and performs skilfully both with her tough but naive sister - sensitively interpreted by Paltrow - and with Goldberg, who has the few funny lines of the movie.

Despite a plethora of too-perfect houses, clothes and lifestyles - all of which often leave the film teetering on the edge of daytime-soap plasticity - the film is saved by its attention to the everyday minutiae of life for a woman coping with personal loss and some sterling performances from the ensemble cast. Together these lift it well above the pocket-book sentimentality that so often sinks the genre.

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