Against the backdrop of Manhattans 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. Hes reluctant to spend the time his health is failing and he wants to finish one more book. Also hes worried about his daughter, Ariel, whos approaching 40, underemployed, single and wanting a child. But he agrees, hoping Heather can help resurrect interest in his work. As Heather probes Franks 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?
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So far, this has been the most satisfying film of 2007. It is a chamberpiece, and Frank Langella's superb performance is noteworthy as muchfor his hesitations before he speaks,and his silences, as it is forwhat he says. It is the work of a master. I found the performance of his daughter interesting and plausible. Theonly character who seemed a cut below the rest, although stillcompetent, was that of Heather, the ambitious graduate student. It maynot have been solely her fault. Although the characters are textured,they somehow seem to exist solely in the scenes in which they appear.Heather, an Ivy League graduate, is working on her doctorate, but livesin New Jersey. She seems never to have a conference with her thesisadviser, let alone attend a university. It is difficult to imagine justhow her thesis is going to bring the author's work back into print.Yet, she seems to fit right into the New York literary scene. Herworking hypothesis, although the film rejects it,is suggested byF.Scott Fitzgerald; it seems to apply to most of the important writers.And it seems to be the framework of the lives of the novelist, hisdaughter and the other characters. Only the boyfriend seems to care fora later book . Oh, (and the spoiler?) he slaps her because she isclearly throwing the bull by mouthing compliments on his latest effort,when he clearly sees that she is insincere. She doesn't even care forhalf his later output, as he notes when he reads her draft. The onlyfalse note is how he he failed to spot her callowness from the start.But even brilliant novelists are not immune to flattery. On the whole,the best picture of the year. Which tells you as much about this cropas it does about the film.
Starting Out in the Evening is a glum variation on the tastefulmiddle-brow tales Woody Allen has been churning for years aboutsophisticated New Yorkers working through their personal issues. Someof the dialog is thuddingly silly - count the number of times the word"brilliant" is used, constantly reminding us that these characters aretalented and so must be taken seriously. As with Allen's stories,there's something oddly dated about this one. Although it takes placein the present day, the characters might seem more at home if the timeframe was, say, the early to mid-'70s.That said, Frank Langella's turn as the aging novelist is wonderful.His tone of voice and the way he carries his body are perfect. He neveroverplays, inhabiting the role, as they say, rather than broadcastingit. He's helped by the fact that his character gets the mostunderstated lines of the script. At times the movie seems to workbetter than it does overall thanks to the contrast between the quiet,deliberate pace at which Langella plays the aging writer and the lessphysically comfortable manner of the other characters.Sadly, it's all in the service of a well-worn story about artistic andpersonal renewal and creative purity. It would be nice to see Langellarecycle his characterization in service of a better script and adirector with a bit more verve.
Unlike many movies, I found myself continually wanting to know whathappens next. I was not watching a movie, so much as seeing the writingprocess examined, explored, and enacted on the screen. The directordoesn't mind taking his time to allow events to develop and unfold, andhe takes us along with him. Music is used sparingly and effectively -he has faith in his actors and his material. The attention to detailwas wonderful - Leonard Schiller wearing shirts and ties many manyyears old, using spoons and tea cups from another era, sitting on acouch from the 40's, reading by lamps with pleated shades, walls andcupboards painted many times over, using a typewriter (hearing theclack clack of the keys was music), contrasted by Heather's tic tic onher laptop, her messy bed in the background, typing by a stylish modernlamp. Lauren Ambrose was the perfect counterpoint to Frank Langella,and the subplot with Lili Taylor as Ariel Schiller and Adrian Lesterwas touching and effective. At all times, the actors were perfect. Theyshould all win Oscars, but they won't. Please don't be fooled by thepaltry box office take of $600,000 - this movie is worthy of box office100 times what it took in.Anyone with a love of writing, good acting, and wonderful directionshould see this movie. Even having Schilling's body begin to fail himrings true, and is not played for pathos.All in all, one of the most enjoyable movie experiences of 2007.
It should come as no surprise that this quietly affecting characterstudy barely left a trace in theaters last year since movies aboutliterature and the writing process are hardly fodder for young teenagedboys looking for outsized CGI-saturated extravaganzas. However,co-writer/director Andrew Wagner's ("The Talent Given Us") sophomoreeffort benefits immeasurably from Frank Langella's deeply nuancedperformance as a once-renowned novelist long forgotten and facing hisown mortality as he attempts to finish a valedictorian work ten yearsin development. With his recognizably sonorous voice and intenselywatchful manner, the 68-year-old actor has never been known for playingsympathetic roles, but he seizes the heart of a becalmed man soengulfed in the creative process that he reacts to any intrusion uponit with a subtle, leonine fury. It's been nearly four decades since hisfilm debut as the egotistical, caddish writer in Frank Perry's "Diaryof a Mad Housewife", but what a treat to see him bookend thatperformance with this one.Langella portrays New York-based Leonard Schiller, whose four publishednovels have been out of print for years. In declining health, Schillertries to interest a publisher friend in his latest, yet-to-be-completednovel, but he is told there is no market for literary-type novels.Precipitously, an enthusiastic graduate student named Heather Wolfewalks into Schiller's intensely private life to request a series ofinterviews for a masters thesis she wants to write about him. She issuch an unabashed fan that her goal is no less than having Schillerrediscovered. The author is initially resistant, but he wears downunder her coquettish persistence. At the same time, Schiller'sself-loathing daughter Ariel has grown up being used to playingsecond-fiddle to her father's work. Single and closing in on forty, shehears her biological clock ticking as she resuscitates an embattledrelationship with her estranged lover Casey, who is equally vehementabout not having children. The plot threads eventually mesh whenSchiller opens up to Heather and realizes how dormant he has kept hisfeelings since his wife's death over two decades earlier.Beyond Langella is a trio of solid performances though none nearly asimpressive as his. Lauren Ambrose ("Six Feet Under") captures Heather'syouthful vigor and innate intelligence, but I found her use ofLolita-style wiles to be a bit mechanical within the scheme of thestoryline. Always worth watching, Lili Taylor is on pretty familiarterritory as the conflicted Ariel, but she manages to bring herlikeably neurotic manner to the role. I haven't seen Adrian Lestersince Mike Nichols' "Primary Colors", but he's a welcome addition hereas the slow-to-evolve Casey, especially in a tense small-talk scenewith Schiller during Ariel's birthday celebration. In fact, much of thedialogue by Wagner and co-writer Fred Parnes has a smart, insightfulquality that doesn't call undue attention to the intellectualobservations of the characters. Even more, their strong screenplaymakes the series of rude awakenings toward the end resonate with acombination of heart and necessary harshness. The 2008 DVD is short onextras - Wagner's thoughtful commentary and the theatrical trailer -but this small-scale film is well worth discovering, especially to seeLangella at the very top of his game.
I had not heard of this movie when I went to see it and did not knowwhat it was about, but I found myself drawn into the story immediately.Despite that there is nothing extraordinary in the actual story, I wasconstantly curious how the story would unfold. No scene feltunnecessary, too long or too short.The story centers around Leonard Schiller (beautifully played by FrankLangella), an aged novelist past his prime, and his daughter Ariel(Lili Taylor), who has repeated the mistakes of her own mother, livingin the shadows of another persons ambition. Enter Heather, an ambitious(and rather improbable) Brown graduate student that is writing herthesis on Leonard Schiller, and the drama starts.Clearly not for everyone, no action, no sex (although I was worried fora while), no fun, but a very interesting movie about life withabsolutely excellent acting.
Movies about writers must overcome one important obstacle. Their livesare quiet, sedentary and a little boring. "Romancing the Stone" wasabout a writer who was being taken on a joy ride. "Finding Forester"was about the challenge of penetrating the inner sanctum of a recluse.Movies about writers usually tell a story which has nothing to do withtheir craft.This movie is a genuine look into the long trudge of tapping out pagesover a lifetime. This movie will not be much for the ka chingdemographics. but it is an interesting look into the life of a man whohas grown old perfecting his art. A young graduate student wants histime and attention. She is doing her thesis on his out-of-print books.The professor has been working on his latest novel for ten years, andthere is doubt that it will ever be ready for publication or everpublished. The book business does not do literature much any more.Langella has played some powerful bad guys in various movies. This isthe first movie I have seen him carry as the lead. Usually, he has thelook and bearing of someone in authority. He is handsome and has aresonate voice. Here, he looks and acts elderly and vulnerable. When heand the young graduate student finally become intimate, the agedifference is jarring. It is clear that he is not taking advantage ofher. She is very aggressive about her intentions, but he is just tooold for her. She is younger than his daughter by at least ten years.There are knock-down, drag-out literary arguments which arefascinating. Such sophisticated conversation about abstract ideas israre in current film. It isn't a pretentious film. We have seen thisNew York before. It is a Woody Allen cityscape without jokes or Woody.We have heard these people chat before in Woody Allen films, but,again, without the jokes. The lighting is familiar - enough light toread by.In the end, we like these people and want to know what they think aboutthings.
Many of the critic comments on this movie were in praise of the actingof Frank Langella. Here he is Jewish author Leonard Schiller who hadtwo early novels that were great successes, two more which were lesspopular, and now had been working on perhaps his last novel for a longtime. It seems that he can't find the inspiration to have hischaracters do something interesting. So his marketability has waned andhas difficulty, even among close friends, finding someone interested inpublishing his book, that is if he ever finishes it. Enter Lauren Ambrose as literary graduate student Heather Wolfe. She isclearly a big fan of Schiller's and is doing her thesis on him and hisworks. At first saying he was too busy writing his novel to take timeto cooperate with her, he relents to her charm and adoration.But Heather has a difficult time penetrating the mind of this man offew words, and who does not easily open up to his inner, deeperthoughts. Still she persists and makes progress. The other story involves Lili Taylor as the author's daughter ArielSchiller. She has sort of put her life on hold because she is in lovewith a man who is adamant that he does not want children. Adrian Lesteris her love interest Casey Davis.While this movie has some similar themes as "Finding Forrester", thereis no "action". It is a somewhat slow study of these four charactersand their interactions. It is how an older man opening up to a youngerwoman can find his lost inspiration. It is how a man and woman in lovebut with incompatible goals can try to work out a compromise, if theyreally love each other.Good movie.
STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING is a quietly moving work of art, a filmadapted from Brian Morton's novel by screenwriters Fred Parnes andAndrew Wagner and directed by Andrew Wagner that dares to take us tothe wall with decisions we make about how we conduct our lives andnegotiate the changes that can either be stumbling blocks or stimulifor creative awareness, It has much to say about the creative processof writing, a theme upon which it first appears to be based, but itmore importantly urges us to examine how we live - how we make use ofthis moment of time in which we inhabit a body in the universe. Leonard Schiller (in an extraordinarily understated performance byFrank Langella) is an aging author, a man whose first two novels seemto set the literary world on fire, but whose next two novels languishedon the shelves and slipped into the same plane of obscurity Schillerfinds his life since the death of hi wife. He has a daughter Ariel(Lili Taylor in another richly hued performance) who is nearing ageforty and is unable to bond permanently with a man because of herobsession with having children before her biological clock ticks pastfertility. Into their lives comes Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), abright young graduate student who has elected to write her master'sthesis on the works of Leonard Schiller. Schiller is absorbed inwriting what may be his last novel and can't be bothered with Heather'splea for a series of interviews. But curiosity intervenes and soonheather and Leonard are involved in the process of interviewing, aprocess which gradually builds into overtones of heather' physical aswell as intellectual attraction to Leonard. Meanwhile Ariel observesthe process that seems to be infusing life into her father andencourages her to exit her current relationship with Victor (MichaelCumpsty) and re-connect with the true love of her life Casey (AdrianLester), a man she loves but who refuses to give her the children sheso desperately wants. The manner in these characters interact and learnfrom each other the importance of sharing Life instead of obsessingwith selfish goals brings the drama to a rather open-ended close,another factor that makes this story significantly better than mostthemes of May-December romance and unilateral coping with self centereddirections. The pleasures of this film are many, but among the finest is thequality of acting by Langella, Taylor, Ambrose, and Lester. In manyways the story is a parallax of views of life as art that subtlyintertwine like a fine string quartet. Why this film was ignored by theOscars only suggests that movies for the mind take second place tomovies for the merriment of entertainment. For people who enjoy thechallenge of a meaty story, this film is a must. Grady Harp
This film is such a welcome breath of fresh air in the midst of thecommercial claptrap that constitutes 90% or more of Hollywood's outputthat it almost seems mean-spirited to talk about its faults. One of thecomments here suggested that the dialog is stilted: "People don't talkthat way." It's true that most people "don't talk that way," especiallyin the movies. But academics, people involved in writing and the artsin general, in other words, the very people this movie is about, doindeed "talk that way." It could just as well be said that people don'ttalk like the average gangster in the shoot-em-ups, either, but forsome reason their arcane argot is acceptable, whereas literate Englishis not. Go figure. Other comments suggested the character of Heatherand her relationship with Leonard is unbelievable. Fact is, it is themost trenchant and vital thing about the whole storyÂan old man, to hisutter consternation, finds himself sexually drawn to a young,emotionally unscrupulous woman who seduces him intellectuallyÂandprobably physically. Yes, she's a little kookie, too full of herself,immature and out of control, so he finally has to reject her violentlyfor trying to mess up his orderly and heretofore peaceful end-of-life.She has tried to tell him that the reason he can't finish his lastnovel is because he has, in effect, already checked out of his ownlife, but he's not willing to confront that fact about himself. Thattheme is a much more interesting one, I think, than, for instance, thesubplot about his daughter.
The movie lacks in action. The dialogue between the lives of the people involved is the enjoyment of the film. On the surface, the movie is a May-December romance, but there is no sex involved. Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller, an author who has seen better days. Lauren Ambrose plays the 25 year old Heather Wolfe writing her master thesis on Schiller, and Lil Taylor plays a 40 year old daughter in mid life crisis. The deeper theme of the story is about women living their life for themselves instead of for a man. The heroes in Schiller's first two novels were such women, even though while during his own life he insisted his wife live for him. He dislikes the idea his daughter who has spent her life doing what the man wanted to do. The movie is about relationships between couples, but gives us more questions than answers. Yes there is some "brief nudity" in the film and believe me, I could have lived my entire life without seeing Frank Langella's manhood.
With the exception of a very uncomfortable, reach-for-the-fast-forward button bedroom sequence, we enjoyed this small, intelligent film a great deal. Frank Langella is a hallmark of excellence. His Leonard Schiller hardly seems like acting...until you remember his entirely different outing as Richard Nixon (Frost/Nixon). Lili Taylor is excellent here, too, as Langella's on-screen daughter Ariel. She's looking beautiful and performing better than ever at 42.Adrian Lester - haven't thought of him since his turn as Henry Burton in Mike Nichols' adaptation of Joe Klein's Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics. He gives a nice outing here, too. His scenes with Langella are outstanding - the metamorphosis of their relationship is touching and realistic.
This film is brilliant, beautiful, and tender. A pure pleasure to watch Frank Langella, as he's absolutely superb in his performance as Leonard Schiller. All of the actors are wonderful. This is the type of movie I love to savor, and I feel the pace of the movie is perfect. The story lingers on in my mind in an extraordinarily deep and captivating way. I am very pleased.
Wow. I just saw this (DVD). I was overwhelmed, touched, perplexed, and often near tears, though I found myself resenting the emotional upheaval the way the writer in the story resented the vivid, stubborn young student who invaded his narrow life. When you can't control your feelings before a work of art - or the artists involved - that's gotta be a good "review."
I didn't keep any expectations from this very film. I honestly didn't have any and to my warm surprise I found out this film to be one of the finest drama's of all time. Frank Langella, the more you can say or get to know about him, the lesser it is. It's one of his finest performences that leads completely to perfection, he is simply the pure example of versatality in cinema, you can't take your eyes off him. The sensitivity, the emotions potrayed by him in the film is simply beyond words. Lauren Ambrose was quite good as the curious young student, her flamboyant acting resulted in a good chemistry with Langella. Lily Taylor delivers a decent performence as Langella's daughter. Its not just a film for a viewing pleasure, its something that drags you in each situation, lets you think once or twice. One of the finest cast performences. Give it a look!
This movie was wonderful. Sometimes while watching a movie I have a tendency to see how much time remains until the film is over, not so with this movie. The time seemed to fly by. This is a stellar movie about a man's self reflection of himself. Sometimes it's not pretty but it's something that you have to do. Langella is absolutely amazing in this picture, I smell Oscar.If you are a writer, or ever wonder what it would be like to be one, this is a must see.One of the best films I've seen in a long time.Do yourself a favor and watch this picture, it's a work of art.Happy Watching!
Based on a novel by Brian Morton which I'm just going to have to readnow, this one came out of nowhere; I wouldn't have heard of it if notfor a couple of critics (thanks Jonathan Rosenbaum and A.O. Scott), andwouldn't have seen it if those reviews didn't just -- touch something-- along with a rave from a coworker. Frank Langella, in probably theperformance of his career and maybe the best male lead I saw from 2007,plays an aging New York novelist and retired professor whose work haslapsed into obscurity, but who has a fresh-faced young academic (LaurenAmbrose) writing a master's thesis on him and (naively) promising tohelp restore his reputation. He also has an unhappy 40ish daughter(Lili Taylor) who desperately wants a child but can't seem to find apartner who is both the right man and a wannabe father.This is a warm, lightly sentimental but never maudlin portrait ofrelationship problems seen through the lens of a dying urbanintelligentsia -- it's New York and Jewish, but you could probably makeit Chicagoan and Italian or San Francisco and gay without changing muchof the meaning and heart of the piece. It's low-budget and shot on DV,and there never seems to be a wasted moment in a loving dissection ofage, the literary world, compromise and regret. This film hit me veryhard, these were all characters that I fell in love with and wanted tobe around; those less enamored of the fading "elitist" world of theManhattan intelligentsia probably won't get it, though I think manywill concede that the relationships really ring true. Not a false notein the film for me; it's being pigeonholed or damned with faint praisein some quarters as "quiet" and "small" but in the worlds it opened upto me emotionally and mentally, it was anything but. A masterpiece.
I saw this film at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival.Starting Out in the Evening is based on the novel by Brian Morton, andstars Frank Langella in an understated role as Leonard Schiller, a oncegreat novelist and now-retired literary professor. His previous booksnow long out-of-print, Leonard is struggling to finish his latestnovel, a decade and counting in the making. Further distracting himfrom his novel is his genial but occasionally strained relationshipwith his daughter Ariel (Lily Taylor), who is nearing 40 and wanting ababy, 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'sthesis. Heather is determined to discover the overriding theme inSchiller's work, the early part of which inspired her to pursue herdreams in college. The conversations that Leonard and Heather havecover the gamut of literary criticism and the creative process,touching on issues such as whether an author's personal life shouldinform their work, and whether an author can be pigeonholed into asingle thematic thread.As Leonard becomes more invested in Heather, these themes end upleading 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 runningout, and wonders if he has enough time, energy, and creativity left tofinish one last book. Lauren Ambrose leaves Six Feet Under behind heras Heather, a driven but self-centered woman who wants to fit Leonard'sbooks into her own preconceived notions and feelings, dismissing asless important those that don't fit the mold.Lily Taylor was great as Ariel, a woman wanting the closeness and depthof relationship that she can't get from her father, so much so that sheis willing to subordinate her own wants and needs. Adrian Lester playsCasey as the exact opposite of Ariel, a man who enjoys his relationshipwith Ariel, but not at the expense of his own dreams. Ariel doesn'tcome 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 genuinelove there that he doesn't fully appreciate.All-in-all, Starting Out in the Evening ends up the night as anenjoyable movie, with good performances all around.
A graduate student, as assertive as she is beautiful, decides to learneverything she can about a New York author who had a couple successesearly in life but has fallen into obscurity. Leonard Schiller has been a failure personally; he spent so much timetrying to make it big as an author that he neglected his only child anddrove away his wife, only to idealize her after death. Somehow radiant masters candidate Heather cuts through the stuffyprofessor's defenses, seducing him (somewhat unnecessarily) in theprocess. Though Schiller appears to be dying, he manages to re-starthis final novel with new understanding, and his daughter Ariel is ableto handle herself more self-respectingly in her relationship with a manwho'd loved and left her in the past. The transformations are allsomewhat magical but somehow the movie makes them real. This is one of the few films I've seen lately that focuses on theinsights and changes that are possible in later life -- an extremelyneglected area in cinema. Frank Langella outshines everyone in anexcellent cast, against the backdrop of a glittering Upper West Side ofManhattan. A hopeful, unconventional work.
There is some plot revealed here, so be warned of the spoiler. One thing I think most reviewers on this site left out, is that thisstory tells a lot about women and women's journey to be fully equal orregain equality that was lost some centuries ago or taken away. Theyoung critic has learned from the author how to be her own person, andnot give it up for love. And the daughter is encouraged to be her ownperson too by the father, and even a moral person. However the daughterhas already been adversely affected by male/female dynamics because herfather ignored both her and her mother who left the father in adivorce. And the father encourages the daughter to not marry the manthat she is in love with, because the man has shown to her, that heputs her desires and needs behind his own. So the father wants the bestfor his daughter, but she has problems with this, as all women do,because women are not equals yet and are trying to achieve this. Manywomen still sell themselves at a cheaper price, in order to have ahusband and children or they are not encouraged to develop theirtalents and grow.
This review is from: Starting Out in the Evening (DVD) This was a great performance by Frank Langella. He was quite believeable in his role as an aged jewish writer. You could really feel the pain of going old and helpless with his performance. However, the daughter played by Lilli Taylor reminded me of an airhead with no goal except having sex to produce a baby and going backwards instead of going forward with her life. I was a little sicken by Lauren Ambrose's Heather attempting to seduce a much older man. This film was truly Frank Langella's greatest performance and he proved that he is a very talented actor. Therefore, it is worth watching.