Length: 111 minutes
Director: Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us)
Writers: Fred Parnes (A Man is Mostly Water) and Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us)
Starring: Frank Langella, Lili Taylor, Lauren Ambrose, Adrian Lester, Joie Lee, Jessica Hecht, Michael Cumpsty
There was a lot of pre-Oscar buzz for Frank Langella’s performance in “Starting Out in the Evening”. He won a few critic awards, but when the Academy Award nominations were announced his name was unfortunately omitted. He does an incredible job here. Langella is a veteran actor who has been overlooked for years for being as talented as he really is. It is a testament- especially here- because he literally makes this film watchable based solely on his performance. The rest of the movie is pretty drab. It feels like a filmed play even though the source material is a novel by Brian Morton. This is one of those films in which the characters all share same the voice. Director Andrew Wagner and his co-writer Fred Parnes believe that since their central character is a famed intellectual that every other character that he interacts with should speak with the same intellect that he has. It is a waste of a really wonderful performance. Langella plays Leonard Schiller. Schiller is a semi-reclusive praised writer who is slowly being forgotten by his literary peers, let alone the rest of the world. When he tells an old friend (Jeff McCarthy) in the publishing business that he is finally finishing up a long awaited novel, the friend tells him honestly that it probably won’t be picked up. People are only interested in “celebrity gossip and self-help books”. Schiller’s sole outlet to the outside world is his lonely and aging daughter, Ariel (Lili Taylor). She is involved in a relationship with a perfectly fine man (Michael Cumpsty) whom she wants his baby, but doesn’t want him. She’d rather be involved with a selfish artist (Adrian Lester) who doesn’t have any interest in starting a family. Schiller himself gets a bit of excitement finally when a grad student named Heather (Lauren Ambrose) shows up and requests to interview him for her thesis. Despite his knowledge of how things will end, Schiller agrees and a relationship starts to bloom that is doomed from the beginning and he, sadly, knows this. A bit of an unspoken rivalry develops between Ariel and Heather, particularly when Heather starts messing with Schiller’s routine and explains to Ariel that she he needs to “shake things up a bit”. Ariel knows what she means and, like her father, sees where things are going. There is, perhaps, a fascinating story here, but we don’t get to see it. Ambrose is overshadowed by her peers, just like she was in “Six Feet Under”. Her severe miscasting is a blow that the weak script can’t handle. At one point, an ailing Schiller tells Ariel’s artist boyfriend that he might give up on his novel. He tells him that he has followed his “characters” around for ten years and that nothing interesting has happened to them. By that point in the movie we know exactly how he feels.
Stream the entire Soundtrack (by Adam Gorgoni) Here