Saturday, March 01, 2008

"Starting Out in the Evening"

Friday night I saw acclaimed writer/director Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us, Starting Out in the Evening) at the Loft Theater in Tucson. When asked how he keeps going (after the disappointments of the awards season), Andrew replied that he is in it for the journey. He gave a stirring speech encouraging an appreciative audience to follow their bliss too. It is clear that his love of writing influenced his film, "Starting out in the Evening."

This multi-level drama is a real treat for literature lovers and writers or anyone who loves smart adult dramas. Andrew explores a world of literature that has all but vanished as the once celebrated author Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) bangs out one last novel on his outdated typewriter. After a close call with a stroke, Schiller urgently struggles to complete the novel he has been working on for a decade. He is challenged to "shake things up" when an ambitious grad student (Lauren Ambrose) badgers him into doing a series of interviews for her thesis on his life's work. She seduces him with the offer of a revised career and renewed acclaim. She forces him to face the consequences that his "single minded devotion to writing" had on his family life and even his writing.

The subplot supports the theme of balancing the pursuit of a dream with living life. Leonard's forty year old daughter, Ariel, (Lilli Taylor) has suppressed her own dream (of having a child) to support her lover's dream. Leonard chastises his daughter for settling for a man who places her second after his dreams. Ariel finds it hypocritical since Leonard's writing always came first over everything including his wife. But Leonard wants more for his daughter.

The dignified Frank Langella gives a courageous performance that would have garnered him an Oscar nomination in less competitive years. And Lilli Taylor literally glows in her role as his daughter.

As a writer, I appreciate how the film explores that precarious balance between having a life with the isolation writing requires and the passion that keeps us going.
OK. It's a lot deeper than that, but I don't want to give it all away. I'll let you figure it out. That's half the fun.

If you love deep adult dramas don't miss seeing, "Starting out in the Evening," starting this evening.

Movie Blessings,
Jana Segal

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