Monday, December 10, 2007

Tonight's Movie

So, first off, “Starting Out In The Evening” was long and it was layered. Certainly, the core story, concerning an author (Leonard Schiller, played by Frank Langella) whose long creative snooze is almost interrupted by ambitious and somewhat manipulative graduate student Heather (Laura Ambrose) is interesting. But it's not that interesting.

Not helping is all of the window dressing going on. Creative death abounds. Schiller's daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) is a former dancer who now teaches pilates and yoga, which she characterizes as, "what happens to dancers when they die."

Ariel's smashing her head up against a wall of stereotyped 40th birthday female angst and her "Oh, my god, my clock was ticking and I think it stopped" shenanigans provide the movie with more a hoped-for audience demographic than a plot element. Lame attempts to cast Langella's Schiller as disappointed non-grandparent aside, Ariel's newly rediscovered love for, then liberation from, then love for an emotionally distant man-child only serves to set up a punchy line or two between her and her father. Even the cross-racial window dressing is just that.

Ambrose's Heather does everything she can to wring something of quality for her thesis out of Schiller, whose lethargy and doubt in engaging her seem both fortuitous and wise, if boring and lifeless. But when he finally caves in and opens up a little, it comes off as something dirty, and Ambrose's Heather seals that deal for us on all counts. No distance off-camera is off enough in this case, and that is what we get.

When the writer becomes bored with his characters, as both the on-screen and the off-screen and, likely, the screenwriter did, there is a tendency to toss them into tragedy or crisis. Sitting there waiting for it as ham-fisted telegraphing paraded across the screen was excruciating. Foreshadowing my ass. There was a veritable total eclipse every quarter hour with partials on the half.

The end of the movie lingers over small details, which will appeal to the perfectionist whose obsession with endings and closure overrides all sense of boredom. Unfortunately, the "Is it happy?" finish that redirects the movie utterly serves less a delicate touch than a mercy killing that also drags on too long before the screen blackens.

But at least Ambrose was a redhead.

My rating (1-5): No.
Marcie's Probable Rating: "Sorry, honey. That was so bad."

This review does not reflect my gratitude to my coworker for sending me the pass from the Film Commission. Listening to the crowd around me was a hoot, too. Thanks, Elizabeth.