Starting Out In The Evening Review

Startingoutintheeveningbig-1THE GENERAL IDEA
In Starting Out In The Evening we take a stroll with Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) as he reviews his life. Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose) starts us off on this journey. She is a grad student with a thesis due, and she chooses her favorite author (Schiller) as the subject. Leonard Schiller reluctantly allows her to interview him, but only after she has impressed him thoroughly.

As we muse over the life of Schiller, real life gets in the way. We are introduced to a spastic dance instructing daughter Ariel Schiller (Lili Taylor) and the baggage she clangs around with her as she floats around his life like a mosquito. She reacquaints herself with an ex boyfriend Casey (Adrian Lester) that has many similarities to her father, and perhaps because of this; Schiller wants her to find new love. Leonard soon finds himself dealing with issues of the heart, when the girl who is examining him, turns out to be a girl he wants to examine (in the nude!).

Here is a synopsis of the film from the official website:

All that remains for Leonard Schiller is his work. His one enduring goal in life is to finish the novel whose completion has eluded him for ten years. With his earlier books out of print, he has learned to starve himself of the desire for the success he was once so close to, though beneath this practice lies a pull for his work to be rediscovered. Schiller’s main contact to the world is through his daughter, Ariel, with whom he has settled into an amiable relationship, though he must hide his disappointment that at 39 she remains befuddled by life, still looking for love and a father for a longed-for child. Schiller’s world is shaken when Heather Wolfe, a smart, ambitious graduate student, convinces him that she can use her thesis on his work to bring him back into the literary world spotlight.

This film has characters that continually spar with each other verbally. Just when you think someone has been burned down to the ground with words, a counter burn is thrown back with the kinetic mastery of a judo master. I cannot stress enough how good the dialogue is in this film. The characters are all intelligent with distinct personalities and points of view. They wrestle with arguments and you are left watching a conversation as if you were expecting a knockout to occur.

Frank Langella simply destroyed this role in every way shape and form; he totally raped it. I have never seen him better; he became this character in front of me, and that was no easy task. Leonard Schiller is a prudent, matter of fact gentleman that champions the art of writing amongst a sea of sellouts. He struggles through his work, his past, his romantic interest and his family problems. That is a full menu of emotional range requirements, and Langella deals with each struggle, in a manner that perfectly suits the character. The acting in this film is killer, and although Frank Langella deserves special mention; Adrian Lester, Lili Taylor and Lauren Ambrose get a nod for their work as well. Lili Taylor in particular conveys so much in this movie with a mere look. Twice in the film she gives Adrian Lester a glance, and you can see her heart melt will love, either the two actors were fucking in real life, or she has legendary ability to convey emotions through her skills as a thespian.

As a rule I enjoy stories about older characters; but sadly they do not seem to be marketable. That is a shame, in my opinion the older a person gets, the more interesting they become; they have greater knowledge to offer and seasoned glasses in which to view the world. In this film we see a man struggle to answer some of life’s most basic questions, and yet he does so from the vantage point of a wise elder; some questions linger long without answers. On the edge of our seats we wait to see how this man will respond to the questions life is throwing at him, hoping to share in his acquired divinations.

I enjoyed this film greatly but did find that it dragged a bit in the third act. Keep in mind that I have the attention span of a housefly, and always stress that a movie should be no longer than 90 min (unless it is absolutely needed) so this is a bias of mine. This film is an adaptation from a book so I can certainly see where they would struggle to trim the fat. I think if I were to cut anything out, I may have removed some of the scenes where Ariel Schiller and Casey are having their own relationship troubles. Fleshing out the situation of these characters may have been needed in the book, but I feel a lot of this could have been chopped for the benefit of the film.

I really liked this movie folks. It is a slower paced film that makes you join in the struggle of the characters as they grapple with the trials and tribulations of life. Frank Langella has a few erotic older guy / younger girl moments that have palpable tension and titillation. It was a joy to see so many characters use razor sharp wit and intelligent argument throughout the film. Although the film focuses of the writing elite, they come off as tradesman talking shop rather than arrogant uppity intelligentsia. Like a good book, this film is great for discussion amongst those that have seen it. I Gladly give this film a 8/10 and recommend it to all of you; let me know what you think.

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