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Starting Out in the Evening (2007)

tomatometer

86

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 99
Fresh: 85 | Rotten: 14

Starting Out in the Evening features sharp dialogue and moving performances from the talented Frank Langella and Lili Taylor.

76

Average Rating: 7.3/10
Critic Reviews: 38
Fresh: 29 | Rotten: 9

Starting Out in the Evening features sharp dialogue and moving performances from the talented Frank Langella and Lili Taylor.

audience

70

liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 3,390

My Rating

Movie Info

Frank Langella (Dracula, Good Night, and Good Luck.) stars in Andrew Wagner's independent drama Starting Out in the Evening, an adaptation of the acclaimed 1999 best-seller by Brian Morton. Langella plays Leonard Schiller, a once-celebrated author whose first four novels inspired Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose) to pursue a career as a writer. These days, Leonard is still working toward completion of the novel that has occupied his life for nearly a decade. On the surface, Leonard has removed

PG-13,

Art House & International, Drama

Andrew Wagner, Fred Parnes

Apr 22, 2008

$0.6M

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All Critics (104) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (85) | Rotten (14) | DVD (7)

Starting Out in the Evening is thrilling in a way that a movie larded with car chases and explosions can seldom be, because of the way it deals with that basic building block of civilization, the creative process.

February 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Film.com
Film.com
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Langella's nuanced performance saves the film; the actor has an understated but powerful role, and he takes full advantage.

February 8, 2008
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's Langella's performance that anchors the film.

February 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

What to do with this light, while it lasts? [Director] Wagner's problem is to find an answer to that question and also to offer some resolution to the conflicts of honesty and compromise the movie portrays.

January 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A strong cast and a literate script make for a refreshingly subtle film.

January 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Langella is superb, and Starting Out in the Evening is a classy film... but it could have used a little less circumspection, a little more juice.

January 4, 2008 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

ut when all is finally revealed it’s gesture—especially the hands—that lifts this film into the ranks of extraordinary and ... bears repeated viewings to savour the subtlety and intimate sense of self.

July 23, 2009 Full Review Source: JWR

Starting Out in the Evening has a formidable performance by Frank Langella to recommend it.

February 2, 2009 Full Review Source: Fayetteville Free Weekly
Fayetteville Free Weekly

A bravura performance from Frank Langella blended into a lackluster story.

September 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Awkward and sometimes overly subtle, but compelling performances by a cast of normally supporting actors who make the most of their much deserved chance to carry a film.

July 19, 2008 Full Review Source: Spectrum (St. George, Utah)
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

Wagner has turned the page on a promising career, and it will be exciting to see what the next chapter brings.

February 28, 2008 Full Review Source: Arizona Daily Star
Arizona Daily Star

Criminally overlooked, this is a great movie, about which I could find no complaint or overt flaw except feeling that Taylor (whom I do love) was mostly a distraction. See it if you can.

February 16, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinerina

Wagner's film is an elegy of sorts for that once-mighty beast known as the New York Writer, a creature that now finds itself increasingly marginalized in a world in which readers are getting scarcer and shelf space for serious fiction is dwindling daily.

February 8, 2008 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

By and large, Starting Out in the Evening is smart and considered and grown-up and credibly human filmmaking.

February 1, 2008 Full Review Source: Oregonian
Oregonian

Just may be the best film of 2007 that you've probably never heard of.

January 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Starting Out in the Evening is just a movie about a dignified old white man who writes novels, slowly, on a typewriter. Clever concept.

January 23, 2008 Full Review Source: Sacramento News & Review
Sacramento News & Review

A dry, insightful and sensitive drama.

January 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Jam! Movies
Jam! Movies

This is Frank Langella's movie. He's been given a plum of role, and he bites into it with amazing grace and precision.

January 14, 2008 Full Review Source: culturevulture.net
culturevulture.net

[Frank Langella] is a god of sorts to those who've followed his career for 30 years with an appreciation for subtle, forceful acting, and he's at the top of his game in Starting Out in the Evening.

January 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Charlotte Observer
Charlotte Observer

Watching Frank Langella in this film is like seeing a brilliant new actor give his breakthrough performance.

January 10, 2008 Full Review Source: EricDSnider.com
EricDSnider.com

A film so quiet that just the crunch of buttered popcorn might drown out some of its subtleties.

January 10, 2008 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Audience Reviews for Starting Out in the Evening

In what could be considered the main theme of Starting Out The Evening, there is the well thought out and acted questions regarding the relationship between a writer and his muse. Part and parcel with this is wondering how a man who is consumed by his writing, so that he almost totally withdraws from life outside of writing, can create characters who function and are relevant in the very life he has withdrawn from.

This is all fascinating stuff, and since it is embodied in yet another wonderful performance by Frank Langella, you'd think that this would be a sure fire hit. Unfortunately the script veers into a very unsatisfactory second theme involving the uneven acting of Lili Taylor as Langella's 40 year old daughter, who hears her biological clock chiming midnight.

I suppose that this secondary theme shows the effects of father on daughter and juxtaposes life versus the escapism Langella has perfected, but really, I feel that all things are thusly connected and in this case the secondary story line detracts rather than augments - kind of like a very weak Greek Chorus in its attempts to bring the core drama more into focus.

Essentially the main story (the one worth watching) deals with a grad student (capably portrayed by Lauren Ambrose) who is writing her thesis on Langella, a former literary giant in the twilight of his career. His early scribbles led to a cathartic experience for Ambrose, who now reveres the ground the "great man" walks on - which adds an odd, yet somehow compelling bit of Lolita and a May/December romance that makes Langella begin to question everything, including the characters and plot ark of the novel he has been working on for 10 years.

There are some great truths here, and Langella is superb - totally raw beneath the veneer of his intellectual civility; and yet, somehow the entire enterprise seemed derailed by the daughters' tale. It was almost like watching two different films on two screens. One held a pretty tight narrative, with some wonderful insight, that seemed very organic, while the other was full of overly obvious setups and some badly delivered, preachy dialog.

At the film's close you simply see a man at his typewriter - starting over on an enterprise he knows he will probably never finish - and yet, since the act of writing defines who and what he is, he follows that instinct, just as a salmon will return to its spawning ground - whether he has anything new to say at this juncture is left to speculation - but regardless, write he must.
October 10, 2012
maxthesax
paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

A reserved, hard-working, washed-up novelist battles age as a young grad student interviews him for her thesis and his relationship with his daughter falters because of her choice in men.
Frank Langella is phenomenal in the lead role of this tightly constructed and intelligently written drama. He lets us know Leonard Schiller in little gestures like his reflexive withdraw from Heather's kiss on his hand and some of his more impulsive actions in the third act. The character's deep pain comes through Langella's reserved exterior, and the script gives us subtle moments like his prodding of Casey about "compromise." Lauren Ambrose is almost up to the task of keeping up with Langella, but it's Lili Taylor who truly rises to the challenge as this father/daughter relationship is one of the most believable I've seen on screen in a while.
The film's theme focuses on what we give up to remain sane in our relationships -- all our relationships, with each other, with our work, with our hopes for the future -- and how time is the constant antagonist.
I thought the film's pace slowed down in the second act, and Schiller's attraction to Heather was never fully clear. Is this a sexual relationship in the fullest sense of the word, or is it intellectual with occasional sexual trappings? And why does Heather react as she does in the third act?
Overall, this film is worth seeing for Langella and for the opportunity to see an intelligent film about intelligent people, which is a rarity in this age.
May 27, 2012
hunterjt13
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Wonderful performance from Frank Langella is the main attraction of this film. Slow and at times a little dull but worthwhile to watch a master at work.
April 4, 2009
jjnxn
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

This movie has everything that I love in a movie: an air-tight, engaging and excellently-written script; cream-of-the crop actors (talent-wise, not tabloid-wise) who really grip you with their intensity and utter devotion to the characters they are playing; and a director who really knows what the film they're making is all about and what it should mean to the people who are watching it.

Lauren Amborse (one of my favorites--of Six Feet Under fame) is a true revelation as an ambitious grad-student who is completely enamored with the world of literature and its escapist qualities. She is so in love with words that she is also in love with the man responsible for writing some of her favorite "works of art."

This man would be Anthony Langella's character (and out-of-touch; hiding in the darkness, forgotten writer who is working on his latest (and presumably his last) great novel. Still, something is keeping him from completing his work of art (10 years in the making) and he's not sure why he's unable to just hammer it out and finish it. This is when Ambrose's character comes in and "shakes things up" for an old writer who has little chance at ever being published again and therefore, being forgotten for all time with no legacy to leave behind.

Lili Taylor is outstanding as the writer's daughter. Her subplot storyline of feeling neglected by the men in her life (her father included) is heart-breaking and tender as well. It really shows you that this film is really a character showcase and it allows its actors to really sink their teeth and completely embody the characters they portray.

There is so much hurt and joy and learning that words can cause and there is a way of using words to shield ourselves from the things we want protection from. But ultimately, the truth about the way we work and why we do the things we do comes to light and slaps some sense into us.

We need words to slap us into believing in ourselves again. We need words to know how we truly feel about one another. We need words to live. We needs words to survive in a world where words are not spoken in order to spare someone's feelings or to strip someone from feeling anything altogether. Words give us our dignity--and when, for example, a writer runs out of words, sometims what's needed is somone to give that person the will (no matter how late in life; no matter how late in the evening of your existence) to speak words once more.
December 12, 2007
flickfever

Super Reviewer

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