Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Carried by a Performance: Starting Out in the Evening

Starting Out in the Evening
Directed by Andrew Wagner
Released November 23, 2007

The one thing you will hear people raving about is Frank Langella's performance in this film. He masterfully carries every single scene he is in and acts as if he is a part of a much better film than the one here. Viewers who liked the performance should get excited for next year's "Frost/Nixon", which I have already seen and can safely say that Langella does an equally tremendous job. The rest of this film, on the other hand, could use some work. It is laden with rich literary subtext for those who care, but it covers a much wider breadth of events than it should, and hardly anything worth focusing on is focused on enough. The 1 hr 50 min runtime goes by far too slowly, and this could easily have been a typical hour-and-a-half film. It falls into a lot of the same traps as last year's similarly-themed "Venus" and is no better at getting out of them. The movie never quite picks up and remains a bit too tame for its own good at most times while reaching disturbing and highly uncomfortable moments at others. Langella is excellent, as is his character's story, but it is the subplots involving two women in his life which take away from the splendor of his narrative. "Six Feet Under" alums Lili Taylor and Lauren Ambrose are at once too perky and chattery for their own good. Neither delivers a memorable performance, and the development of their characters suffers as a result. My literature-loving friend adored this film, so maybe it is one explicitly for the literary crowd. Other than Langella, however, this is one story which probably worked just a bit better in the form of, you guessed it, literature.


Oscar chances: Langella will need a lot of buzz to make it all the way to the Oscars. If he gets a SAG nomination, that will be a huge boost for him, but he could still fall through the cracks like "The Station Agent" did in 2003 despite surprise SAG love. The field in Best Actor this year is quite crowded with a number of performers already being left out along the way (Emile Hirsch, Tommy Lee Jones, John Cusack). Otherwise, this is a very similar situation to "Venus" last year where no one completely loves the film, but they all praise the performance. The problem is that Langella does not have seven Oscar nominations, and while people might feel he is overdue, this may not be the performance that does it for them. Luckily, he will have another shot next year with a film that is much more likely to receive a wide release, "Frost/Nixon".

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