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|Starting Out in the Evening|
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E||
dir Andrew Wagner|
scr Fred Parnes, Andrew Wagner
with Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica Hecht, Michael Cumpsty, Karl Bury, Joie Lee, Jeff McCarthy, Dennis Parlato, John C Havens, Joel West
release US 23.Nov.07
07/US InDigEnt 1h51
Take a walk: Ambose and Langella
With a relaxed, gentle tone, this personal drama focuses on the internal lives of a small group of people who have issues that lead to rather offbeat interaction. It's slightly too understated, but also thoroughly involving.
Leonard (Langella) is an established author with a string of respected literary novels published over several decades. But he's struggling with his latest book, partly due to health issues. Into his life comes Heather (Ambrose), a grad student writing her thesis on Leonard, and looking for inside information about her idol. She wants to read his new manuscript, but that's not going to happen, so she throws herself at him instead. Meanwhile, Leonard's daughter Ariel (Taylor) has her own issues, including a former ex-boyfriend (Lester) who doesn't share her desire to have kids.
It's easy to identify with these characters as their ambitions clash with those around them. Leonard may be old fashioned, but he enjoys being set in his ways, using a typewriter at his own pace and refusing to worry about why editors aren't interested in literary fiction any more. Ariel is a 40-year-old modern woman, but she might have to resort to deception to get the child she longs for. And Heather is perhaps too young to understand, but her ambition knows no bounds.
The solid actors' interaction is loaded with brittle dialog, intense glances and provocative collisions. Each quietly authentic performance tellingly taps into the critical search for control and acceptance of people around us. And they constantly call each other on it, such as when Leonard tells Heather that she's insulting his writing by trying to define it by some event in his past. Langella is especially good in a tricky role that requires quite a bit of soul-bearing (and body-bearing), and his gravitas fits Leonard perfectly.
Director-cowriter Wagner handles this with a light touch, balancing the humour and emotion and digging deeper to ask more interesting questions. Where does inspiration come from, besides our personal desires and experiences? Where's the line between drawing from your own life and writing an actual autobiography? This is subtly beautiful filmmaking, maybe too light at times, but astute enough to catch us off guard over and over again.
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© 2007 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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