When a new director comes to Hollywood and actually manages to get a movie made that he wrote, sometimes a viewer wonders how he managed to get a big name involved, and sometimes the movie is good enough that it isn't a big surprise. Moonlight Serenade, starring Amy Adams and created/directed by Giancarlo Tallarico, is a little of both. This whimsical part-musical part-romance gives Adams the chance to sing, so perhaps that is what drew her to the role, but the story itself is fairly drab and routine.
Nate Holden (Alec Newman) is an investment broker who works hard by day dealing in failures and disappointments, so by night he likes to go to a piano bar and listen to jazz. Every night he goes home and plays his own piano, letting the music calm the stresses of the day. He's drawn to the coat check girl, Chloe (Adams), because one night she walks by his window and sings a duet with him. When he realizes who his secret muse is, he agrees to help her prepare for an audition. She needs a piano player because she wants to sing in that piano bar, and she has some troubles of her own in the shape of a druggie boyfriend she can't get clean.
Of course these two music lovers manage to find a passion for one another as well as their songs, but Chloe is uncomfortable due to her boyfriend. She resists his draw, but even when she eventually gives in other problems start to crop up. Can they deal with their separate issues and find a way to come together in harmony? Was that a very bad pun on the music part of the movie? Yes and yes! The film is nice but bland, and while the jazz music and piano pieces are marvelous, both actors have only average voices. This is a real problem considering that the story revolves around them showcasing their vocal talent, but sometimes actors are only meant to be actors. Neither of them are bad, but is Adams really good enough to sing at a nightclub? Probably not.
There are a lot of genuinely interesting parts of this film, however. It is a real throwback to earlier musicals in terms of tone, dialogue, clothing, and that sort of jazz-like elegance that hasn't been seen on screen since the '40s or '50s. Cary Grant might be at home in a movie like this, and if he was, the whole thing might have been better. Amy Adams has serious star quality, but her co-star in this is ultimately forgettable. Their chemistry is lackluster and forced, and while the idea of a straightlaced businessman being a passionate musician is an interesting one, he doesn't give much more than a two-dimensional performance as Nate. Adams is the real draw here, and she does play her usual sweet, doe-eyed self, which is just as charming as ever. Nothing but good things should be said about supporting actress Harriet Sansom Harris as Nate's secretary. She brings plenty of heart and warmth to her scenes.
Truthfully, the movie is okay but not really good and certainly not great. There is a lot of potential in the musical theme, but Adams carries most of it and the only reason it is out on DVD now is due to her star power. Fans of Adams will probably love her role in the film and all of the songs she sings, so that fan base that will be pleased. It's just a shame her leading man couldn't cut it next to her, because it's possible the predictable story could've worked if the two stars had stronger chemistry. Anyone who enjoys musicals or Adams may like Moonlight Serenade, but there's a reason it wasn't put out on DVD for three years.