Movie review by Andrea Karen Hammer
With great appeal for writers, Starting Out in the Evening (2007) will also captivate anyone interested in films about fathers and daughters as well as May-December and other unconventional relationships. Most of all, the common theme running through the subplots thoughtfully explores the pursuit and loss of dreams, a subject that will continue to linger.
The masterful Frank Langella (Leonard Schiller) commands attention through the stillness of his strong performance in this film. Although movies about writers are often challenging to make visually interesting, watching Frank Langella in front of his typewriter is riveting. With hands folded in front of the blank page for extended periods, he finally starts pecking at the keys and picks up some momentum.
Caring but Uneasy Entanglements Continue to Shift in Surprising Ways
Uncomfortable moments build when the master’s student Heather Wolfe insistently worms her way into Frank’s life. Played with convincing edginess by Lauren Ambrose, the young woman’s thesis about the past-prime writer walks a fine line between disturbing obsession and misguided passion. Despite her overly confident and all-knowing attitude, she has actually created an idealized version of her writing idol who, in reality, is a 70-year-old all-to-human man.
Leonard’s devoted daughter, Ariel (fully realized by the effervescent Lili Taylor from Mystic Pizza), questions her father’s new and unsettling relationship. In turn, Leonard objects to Ariel’s decision to reunite with her boyfriend, Casey (Adrian Lester). Ultimately dispelling her father’s grave doubts about his ability to compromise and make her happy, Casey shows an extraordinary level of compassion after Leonard has a stroke.
In one of the most moving scenes in the movie, Casey stretches emotionally and physically while helping Ariel’s father get to the bathroom and clean up in the bath. After this vulnerable experience for Leonard and surprising show of support from Casey, the once-at-odds men form an unexpected bond.
As the characters work their way through tangled yet caring connections, Starting Out in the Evening is a powerful movie, underscoring the fragility of relationships–and life.
Questions for Artsphoria’s Online Film Forum
What did you think about Leonard’s relationship with Heather, and why? How did you react to his interactions with Ariel and Casey?
What was Starting Out in the Evening attempting to convey about writers and the writing life? Can you recommend other movies about writers and explain why they are worth watching?
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