Friday, 7 September 2007

Starting Out in the Evening

Director: Andrew Wagner
Country: USA

The movie, based on the novel of the same name, is about an ageing author, Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella), who becomes the subject of a master's thesis by young graduate, Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose). Heather has a passion for literature uncommon for her age and an unusual fixation on Leonard's work and on Leonard himself. Complications arise as Heather tries to resurrect Leonard's career. There is also a side-plot involving Leonard's daughter, Ariel (Lili Taylor) as she reaches 40, and tries to make some important decisions in her life.

A good part of the first half of the movie is spent establishing the principal characters of the movie. Unfortunately, this seemed a bit rushed and, at times, quite pretentious, and on the verge of straight out forced (in terms of dialogue). It almost felt like the movie was a victim of its own title - it only really started to feel like the movie it was meant to be towards the end. However, I guess it's a lot better to see a movie with a bad start that ends well than a movie that starts off brilliantly but is ruined by the last 10 minutes. This is how I felt with Starting Out in the Evening - it was a movie that was redeemed by the way the end was handled (although I guess that may have to do with how well the book was written).

Apart from the ending, which I loved because it didn't resort to any cliché of a May-December romance, what I liked the most about the movie was Frank Langella's performance. The acting overall was pretty solid, but Langella was superb as Schiller, the seemingly burnt out writer determined to finish one final novel before he dies.

This film is a hard one for me to decide how to recommend it. I did like it, but I didn't love it, and it kind of falls into an "in-between" category in that it's certainly not a cheap cheesy Hollywood chick flick, but it also has enough unlikable elements to deter the indie movie crowd. I would say that it's one of those rental movies for a slow week if you feel like a romance that has a bit of character.

Q&A: I didn't actually stay for the Q&A for this one. I wasn't in the mood for one after the movie ended - I was feeling quite tired, and wanted to get home to relax. As I exited the theatre, the crowd was still as huge as it was when I entered, and there was a small queue of people trying to get into the theatre for the Q&A session. Yup, this festival has certainly begun.

No comments: