An Engaging ‘Evening’
December 13, 2007
“Starting Out in the Evening” has two immense strengths going for it: a great performance (by Frank Langella) and a great idea (the importance of literature; make that Literature with a capital L).
Langella plays Leonard Schiller in the superb, human-scale film directed by Andrew Wagner. Leonard is a former great New York novelist who has been frozen in writer’s block for 10 years. It’s not that he has given up; each morning he rises and does battle with the blank page in his typewriter, and it tells you something about his traditionalism that he hasn’t converted to a computer. His life is placid, orderly and perhaps not productive in its current format.
The movie proper tells of the changes that come to Leonard when an ambitious graduate student, Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), bullies her way into his life ” demanding interviews and emotional intimacy, letting it all hang out in the modern sense ” with the idea of getting his work back into print (and getting hers into print in the first place). This quiet, humorous drama of oppositional wills from different generations and how they come to terms with each other is one of the miracles of the season.
“Starting Out in the Evening”
PG-13, 97 minutes
Contains sexual content, profanity and brief nudity.