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Robert J. Siegel
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Against the backdrop of Manhattan's changing literary and publishing world, aging novelist Leonard Schiller is asked by Heather Wolfe, a graduate student and budding literary critic, to agree to interviews. He's reluctant to spend the time: his health is failing and he wants to finish one more book. Also he's worried about his daughter, Ariel, who's approaching 40, underemployed, single and wanting a child. But he agrees, hoping Heather can help resurrect interest in his work. As Heather probes Frank's writing and his past, Ariel reconnects to a former lover. Emotions can be raw and messy, and as relationships change, who gets the better part of the bargain? Written by
Stu Richel played the husband of Jill Eikenberry in a scene with her former lover, played by Frank Langella. The Jill-Frank relationship was thought not to be "central to the spine of the story" and was dropped in the final cut. See more »
In the scene where Leonard goes back to apartment after stroke, as he sits in the chair there's a boom mic shadow visible on the back wall. The scene then shifts to Lili Taylor, and when it returns the shadow has gone. See more »
Men my age are like chewing gum; ten minutes of flavor, and then just bland repetition.
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Movies about literary people too often sound like books rather than movies. The way characters talk doesn't jive with the way people actually sound in real life. Dialogue sounds scripted, phrases and speeches are too well put together.
This is a trap "Starting Out in the Evening" doesn't avoid, but it's easy to overlook that minor flaw, as the rest of the film is intelligent and thoughtful. The main reason to watch is Frank Langella, playing Leonard Schiller, an aging novelist who the world has forgotten and who is tempted to hope that his name might be revived by an idolatrous grad student who wants to do her thesis on his work. The grad student (Lauren Ambrose) is pushy and rather unlikable, but it makes sense that Leonard would take to her, as only someone as pushy as she could break through his reclusive facade. The relationship these two embark upon is complicated to say the least, and both actors navigate the tricky terrain well.
A subplot involves Leonard's daughter (played by Lili Taylor, who it was a pleasure to see again) and her rekindled relationship with a man of whom Leonard does not approve (Adrian Lester).
"Starting Out in the Evening" is one of those ultra-sombre movies that takes place in the dead of winter, when everything is cold and dead, and in which the predominant color scheme is brown and gray. But the cast brings enough vitality to the film, and the screenplay is unpredictable enough, that the end product is engaging rather than depressing.
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