drama, Madeleine Morgenweck, movies, reviews, Scott Friend, To the Moon, Will Brill
December 9, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Scott Friend
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of the United States, the dramatic film “To the Moon” has an all-white cast of characters representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: An actor and his wife retreat to his family’s cabin in the woods while he’s in recovery from drug addiction, and they unexpectedly find his estranged older brother there.
Culture Audience: “To the Moon” will appeal primarily to people who don’t mind watching movies that are marketed as “thrillers” but fail to deliver any real thrills or suspense.
“To the Moon” is not a movie about travel to outer space, but this monotonous misfire of a film can easily put viewers on the path to falling asleep. It’s a tepid family drama that misleadingly tries to look like a scary horror movie. The story is nothing but lot of boring arguments between two insecure brothers, with some terrible acting and a lazy attempt at some gore in the last 15 minutes.
Written and directed by Scott Friend, “To the Moon” looks like one of the many low-budget movies where people decided, “Hey, let’s do a movie in an isolated wooded area and try to make it look scary.” This over-used concept is stuck in a quagmire of self-indulgent staleness in “To the Moon,” whose unimaginative plot is barely enough for a short film. The total running time of “To the Moon” is 82 minutes, but it might seem like longer, because the movie drags on and on with not much happening.
Only three characters appear on screen in “To the Moon,” which takes place in one location in an unnamed part of the United States. (“To the Moon” was actually filmed in Massachusetts.”) This minimalist approach just amplifies all the problems in the movie. There are no big impressive horror scenes or flashy action sequences to distract viewers from the very weak plot.
In the beginning of the story, married couple Dennis Lotz (played by Friend) and Mia Lotz (played by Madeleine Morgenweck) have gone to Dennis’ family cabin in the woods for what they think will be a quiet retreat while they try to heal from some stressful experiences. Dennis is a movie/TV actor who’s going through withdrawal from heroin addiction. His addiction has recently gotten Dennis fired from a TV series where he had a starring role.
Instead of going to rehab, Dennis wants to see if he can quit on his own, and he thinks his family home (which he and his older brother Roger Lotz inherited from their deceased parents) is the best place for him to do it. Dennis and Mia have brought their pet dog with them on this trip. Everything about “To the Moon” dumbs down a lot of clichés that have been in much better films, because Dennis’ heroin ewithdrawal is depicted in a very superficial way.
Mia is a former figure skater whose skating career was cut short because of an injury on her right knee. For now, Mia hasn’t thought about what she’ll do next for a job because she’s ben focused on trying to start a family with Dennis. However, Mia recently had a miscarriage. And so, not only are Mia and Dennis dealing with the grief over the loss of their child, but they also have to deal with how he’s recovering from his heroin addiction. Will he succeed or relapse?
Not long after Mia and Dennis arrive at the house, they are surprised to see that Dennis’ eccentric older brother Roger (played by Will Brill) is on the property. They first see Roger doing tai chi exercises in a field outside the house. Throughout the story, there are tedious scenes of Roger, who has a hippie-ish lifestyle, encouraging Mia and Dennis to do tai chi and meditate with him.
Roger and Dennis haven’t seen or spoke to each other in years, because nomadic Roger “dropped off the grid” and didn’t leave a contact address or phone number with any friends or family members. It’s why Dennis and Mia didn’t invite Roger to their wedding: The couple had no way of knowing how to contact him.
Dennis and Roger awkwardly greet each other, and Roger lets it be known that he has no intention of leaving the property because he got there first. The brothers’ conversations during this reunion become increasingly hostile, as Roger openly flirts with Mia, and she indicates that she really enjoys being in Roger’s company. Meanwhile, a grumpy Dennis mopes around, pouts, and has hallucinations that Roger is trying to get Dennis to relapse on heroin. Dennis also has nightmares that aren’t very terrifying.
Jealousy and insecurity inevitably cause Mia and Dennis to argue. Dennis predictably gets upset that Mia and Roger seem to be mutually attracted to each other. He confronts Mia about it, but Mia denies that she’s attracted to Roger. However, there’s no question that Roger is sexually attracted to Mia, because Dennis catches Roger masturbating in a bedroom after Roger flirtariously danced with Mia in the house’s living room. Throughout much of the movie, Dennis wastes time trying to convince Mia that Roger is an awful person.
In addition to this possible love triangle that could threaten Dennis and Mia’s marriage, “To the Moon” has an ultimately useless subplot about Dennis and Mia disagreeing on where they would want to raise any children they might have together. Mia would prefer to settle in a rural area, such as where they are on this getaway trip, while Dennis would prefer to continue living in the unnamed big city where they currenly reside. Mia tells Dennis that moving to a rural area would be better for his health, because she tells him there are “too many temptations in the city.”
Most of the interpersonal tension in the movie is between Dennis and Roger, who argue with each other—not just about Mia but also about typical sibling rivalry issues that were problems between these two brothers before Dennis even met Mia. Dennis has a few secrets that he eventually confesses to Mia, but these secrets aren’t essential to the plot at all. It’s just another excuse for the movie to continue to show clashes between Mia and Denns.
All of these relationship problems and squabbles are repeated to irritating levels in “To the Moon,” which is takes these plot devices and spins them around in a mind-numbing circle. At intermittent times throughout “To the Moon,” a mysterious person wearing a red hooded cloak is seen lurking in the woods. Dennis sees this hooded figure on the first day of his arrival at the cabin. Don’t expect to find out anything meaningful about this hooded figure.
In addition to being a dreadfully dull movie, “To the Moon” can’t even offer intriguing performances from the cast members, who never come across as believable in portraying these family members. The acting is amateurish and annoying, with Morgenweck (who performs her dialogue in a stiff way) showing the least amount of talent of the three actors. It doesn’t help that the screenplay doesn’t give these actors much that’s interesting to say. The movie has no character development for Dennis, Mia and Roger.
“To the Moon” takes an abrupt and bizarre turn in the last 15 minutes, as if the filmmakers decided they had to do something in this movie other than show people arguing and doing spiritual wellness exercises. This extreme plot development to conclude the movie looks very phony and tacked-on, as if writer/director Friend ran out of ideas on how to finish the story. The movie’s title refers to Dennis and Mia saying to each other that they love each other “to the moon,” but this movie is like an ill-conceived trip to the moon that never gets off the ground.
1091 Pictures released “To the Moon” on digital and VOD on September 20, 2022.