Review: Starting Out in the Evening (2007)

Starting Out in the Evening

Starting Out in the Evening



Andrew Wagner


Fred Barnes, Andrew Wagner (Novel by Brian Morton)


111 min.


Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica Hecht, Michael Cumpsty

MPAA Rating

PG-13 (for sexual content, language and brief nudity)

Buy/Rent Movie



Source Material


What amounts to little more than a literary essay on aging, Starting Out in the Evening is saved only by the presence of Frank Langella and Lili Taylor.

Leonard Schiller (Langella) is an award winning novelist whose last book led to a cultural revolution, but whose latest tome has barely registered as a blip in literary circles. However, there is one person who believes whole-heartedly in his work and has decided to do an essay of her own on the legendary author.

Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose) teeters between obsessed fan and lusting stalker, providing Schiller with several conflicting emotional decisions, the least of which is how to deal with feeling like an old timer in the youngster’s game of publishing, using Heather as a catalyst to hopefully rekindle his lost emotional adventurousness.

Aging has been an increasingly abundant topic among Hollywood features and independent productions in the last few years. Much of this seems to be a byproduct of the aging of many key intellectuals of the Hollywood community, including scribes, critics and producers alike. Add to that the sector of the viewing public that cut their teeth on the challenging metaphorical films of the 1960s and 1970s beginning to grow older themselves, and you find a growing willingness to make films for and about that sector of the population.

Films like Away from Her service that demographic quite well, but movies like Starting Out in the Evening take a too-high brow approach to the subject, alienating any younger viewers who might want a glimpse into their future life. Sure, the film does challenge the idea that ageism is rampant in the modern literary community and what was once popular is fading because of a need for edgier and more mass marketable fare. But there is still and audience out there for pure intellectual work and while films like this suggest they are trying to appeal to that demographic, they do so in such a fundamentally uninteresting way as to dissuade more than encourage that audience.

That isn’t to put down the stellar acting work in the film embodied by Langella and Taylor. Taylor, who has been a mainstay of the indie scene for a number of years, doesn’t put forth her best work here, but she’s sufficiently engaging to act as a nice balance between the struggles of her aging father and her own personal struggles, making the only bridge, albeit a tiny one, between any of the other peripheral characters in the film.

But, the real center of the story is Langella’s character and there is no question about that as Langella controls and develops the film in ways only an actor of his caliber can. There’s an emotional rawness to his portrayal that embellishes the story more than any aspect of the script. In lesser hands, this might have crumbled into an entirely dull movie, but thanks to Langella’s performance, it elevates the material to a slightly higher level.

Starting Out in the Evening isn’t the kind of film that will appeal to most audiences and even then ones for whom it was intended won’t find a lot to be excited about. The one and only real reason to watch this film is to watch Langella, in the prime of his ability, deliver a terrific performance.

Review Written

September 29, 2008

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