A lot of people told me to see this flick, because Frank Langella’s performance is so amazing, they said. (And I’m sure, unspoken, because they thought I might identify with a film about an elderly writer and a beautiful young woman.)
But everyone is pretty terrific in this flick, with the truly amazing performance, for my taste, being that young redhead who played the daughter on SIX FEET UNDER, Lauren Ambrose. She not only holds her own, she makes the movie work.
Langella does do a beautiful job, with some moments that stand up to the best on film. And Lili Taylor does her always fine job, as does everyone else, especially Adrian Lester. But Ambrose is a revelation.
It’s another movie about aging, but unlike AWAY FROM HER and THE SAVAGES, (and in an indirect way THERE WILL BE BLOOD and NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN) this movie, STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING, didn’t leave me second guessing the writer, or ultimately disappointed, in any way.
Maybe I am a sucker for what we used to call when I was a kid “Hollywood endings”—before Scorcese and Coppola and the rest of the filmmakers of my generation turned those happy-ever-after endings on their head. Not that this has a happy-ever-after ending. But it does tie up a few things, and have that natural circling-in-on-itself that Grace Metalius (the infamous author of the best-selling novel of my youth, PEYTON PLACE) said was the main device for a novel to work (she could have cited Joyce’s FINNEGANS WAKE).
Or maybe I just need a little hope at the end of my movies these days, after years of hope being mugged on a daily basis it seems. Maybe we all do, or a lot of us.
Not that STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING is a feel-good movie, or reverses the realities of aging vs. youth, or pretends that the losses that go with aging are completely made up for by whatever wisdom has been gained, or can be shook loose by late-in-life new experiences.
All that is, in fact, what the movie’s about. And, a lot of it rang true to what I’ve experienced, and watched others experience. But in the end it doesn’t ring false to me because it is presented with a kind of blemishes-and-all reality that corresponds to the dailiness of most of our lives and yet holds a kernel of not only intellectual and artistic rigor, but the grace that does indeed sometimes arrive in the form of disappointments.