We all have our favorite actors and actresses; those familiar faces that sometimes help to brighten movies with their particular charisma. I would consider Amy Adams to be one of my multiplex life preservers, proving herself in recent years to be a beaming, emotionally receptive actress who consistently rises above the material she's offered or, in the case of "Doubt," fits in snugly with the pros. Adams is why I gave away 90 minutes of my life to "Moonlight Serenade," a ridiculous musical with dollar-store production values and a creepy sense of whimsy, made well before Adams hit the big time. This will teach me to be more mindful of copyright dates before agreeing to review a film.
Nate Holden (Alec Newman) is an investment broker with affection for the piano bar scene, losing himself in the songs of Gershwin and Berlin. While his day job provides overwhelming pressure from a series of demanding clients, Holden clears his head nightly at his piano, singing out to the world from his apartment. Hearing his call is coat check girl Chloe (Amy Adams), who's in need of a partner for an audition. As the two work out a few numbers, a bond of music is formed, soon blossoming into physical attraction. However, Chloe isn't ready for love, pushing Nate away to tend to her junkie boyfriend. Nate, dejected, turns away from the music, finding life isn't worth living without his muse.
It's not difficult to see where writer/director Giancarlo Tallarico is going with "Moonlight Serenade." A valentine to the musical love stories of the 1930s, the picture attempts to rekindle the innocence and open-heart spirit of the bygone era, channeling that unique energy against a modern backdrop of business pressures and harsh romantic consequence. The affection is unmistakable, but the execution of "Moonlight Serenade" is ghastly, resembling a mind-numbing student film that somehow lucked into a semi-name actress. Ahh, the power of favors.
It's difficult to pinpoint the exact nonsense of the film, since "Moonlight Serenade" as a whole is frighteningly inept. The cinematography is anxious without reward, the lip-synch for the musical numbers is laughably ill-timed and seemingly more guessed than rehearsed, make-up and hair artistry is nonexistent (most of the cast looks like they just stepped out of a sauna before cameras rolled), emotional content is given the loathsome daytime soap treatment, and the performances are dismal all around -- though I'll give the cast the benefit of the doubt and place the blame squarely on Tallarico. It's all intended to be innocent fun, with cast members bursting out into song and melodramatic confrontations aplenty to keep the tension bubbling. However, it's a wasted effort, as the frightfully low-budget nature of the film undermines its every last intention.
I'd suggest Tallarico was simply far too ambitious for the project at hand, but that would assume there's some sort of unfulfilled directorial competency waiting to be properly developed.
Magnolia Home Entertainment sent only a watermarked DVD-R for review.
Adams is characteristically endearing in "Moonlight Serenade," but it's a lost cause from the start. I can see why the actress accepted the role, as the opportunity to sing on film doesn't come around often, but the picture is a second-rate bit of daydreaming. It's a painful and relentless amateur-hour production all the way.