Nuanced performances polish this cinematic gem

Starting Out in the Evening

on November 21, 2007 by Kevin Courrier

In this lovely little gem, Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) is a veteran novelist and professor experiencing writer’s block on his latest creation. His previous books out of print and still grieving the death of his wife, Schiller is now contemplating his own mortality. At this point into his life comes Heather ( Six Feet Under ’s Lauren Ambrose), a graduate student preparing a master thesis on Leonard's work because his first novel changed her life. As he reluctantly allows her to visit and interview him, their relationship, both professional and personal, drives a wedge between Leonard and his middle-aged daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor). Meanwhile, Ariel desperately wants to have kids but is in love with a man (Adrian Lester) who doesn't care to have any.

Starting Out in the Evening is an exquisite tale about the way the artistic process becomes every bit a part of the processes of life. Langella gives probably his finest screen performance as a man who is trying to look ahead as an artist while his personal life keeps demanding he look back. Ambrose wonderfully captures a young woman who is sensually excited by the same world of ideas that has inspired Leonard, although she lacks the worldly experience to grasp the deeper impact that she's having on Schiller. Taylor offers one of her beautifully modulated performances as a woman who embraces life but fears an essential part of it may be passing her by. And Andrew Wagner's smart direction is modest and unassuming. Starting Out in the Evening may be a little movie, but it's not small-minded—rather, it’s both rich and rewarding.

Distributor: Roadside Attractions
Cast: Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor and Adrian Lester
Director: Andrew Wagner
Screenwriters: Andrew Wagner and Fred Parnes
Producers: Gary Winick, John Sloss, Nancy Israel and Jake Abraham
Genre: Drama
Rating: PG-13 for sexual content, language and brief nudity
Running time: 111 min.
Release date: November 23, 2007 NY/LA

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