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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I saw this film at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.
Starting Out in the Evening is based on the novel by Brian Morton, and stars Frank Langella in an understated role as Leonard Schiller, a once great novelist and now-retired literary professor. His previous books now long out-of-print, Leonard is struggling to finish his latest novel, a decade and counting in the making. Further distracting him from his novel is his genial but occasionally strained relationship with his daughter Ariel (Lily Taylor), who is nearing 40 and wanting a baby, but stuck back in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend Casey (Adrian Lester), who is most decidedly against the idea.
Another complication comes in the form of a young grad student, Heather (Lauren Ambrose), who has made Leonard the subject of her master's thesis. Heather is determined to discover the overriding theme in Schiller's work, the early part of which inspired her to pursue her dreams in college. The conversations that Leonard and Heather have cover the gamut of literary criticism and the creative process, touching on issues such as whether an author's personal life should inform their work, and whether an author can be pigeonholed into a single thematic thread.
As Leonard becomes more invested in Heather, these themes end up leading all the characters reaching pivotal decisions in their lives, paralleling the thrust of Leonard's early work around personal freedom.
Langella gives a fine performance as Leonard, who sees his time running out, and wonders if he has enough time, energy, and creativity left to finish one last book. Lauren Ambrose leaves Six Feet Under behind her as Heather, a driven but self-centered woman who wants to fit Leonard's books into her own preconceived notions and feelings, dismissing as less important those that don't fit the mold.
Lily Taylor was great as Ariel, a woman wanting the closeness and depth of relationship that she can't get from her father, so much so that she is willing to subordinate her own wants and needs. Adrian Lester plays Casey as the exact opposite of Ariel, a man who enjoys his relationship with Ariel, but not at the expense of his own dreams. Ariel doesn't come across as a victim; there's a hint of strength under the surface. And Casey doesn't come across as a complete jerk; there's a genuine love there that he doesn't fully appreciate.
All-in-all, Starting Out in the Evening ends up the night as an enjoyable movie, with good performances all around.
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