Starting Out In The Evening

Starting Out In The Evening


Reviewed by: The Exile

Speaking as someone who has lusted after Frank Langella ever since his 1979 appearance as the Count in John Badham’s Dracula, I am happy to report that his hotness remains undiminished. As does his talent; now 70, the actor - never one to expend energy unnecessarily - still carries himself with the same feline grace and restrained insolence that have made him such a mesmerising screen presence and such a challenging costar.

If anything, Langella has aged rather too well for his role as the somber protagonist of Starting Out In The Evening, a literary drama of rare sophistication and enormous subtlety. A brilliant but out-of-print novelist whose latest book has taken 10 years to complete, his Leonard Schiller has all but withdrawn from the world. So when an eager young grad student named Heather (Six Feet Under’s Lauren Ambrose) breaches his sedate Manhattan apartment, placing her lips to his hand and begging for permission to make him the subject of her thesis, Schiller initially refuses. For about five minutes.

Copy picture

Adapted by Andrew Wagner and Fred Parnes from Brian Morton’s award-winning novel, Starting Out In The Evening is a movie about reawakening: of literary talent, of professional purpose and of simple vitality. Wagner directs with more delicacy than viewers of his debut film - the 2004 documentary about his own messed-up family, The Talent Given Us - might expect, keeping motives blurred and interactions layered. A subplot involving Lili Taylor as Schiller’s broody, emotionally damaged daughter suggests a father whose selfishness precludes viewing women as equals. Is he succumbing to Heather’s opportunistic flattery, or is he merely using her to reignite his career?

In scenes filled with wit and intelligence, Langella and Ambrose perform an exquisite dance of power, lending the film a complexity that reaches beyond the script. Who is in control remains unclear, but my money will always be on Langella.

Reviewed on: 26 Feb 2008
Share this with others on...
Starting Out In The Evening packshot
A grad student convinces an ageing writer to let her write a thesis on him.
Amazon link

Director: Andrew Wagner

Writer: Andrew Wagner, Fred Parnes, based on the novel by Brian Morton

Starring: Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica Hecht

Year: 2007

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: US


Sundance 2007

Search database: