Starting Out in the Evening Review

January 28, 2009

startingoutReviewed by: The Film Snob

Synopsis: Frank Langella plays Leonard Schiller, a once great author who is mercifully approaching the end of his life. While working on her thesis, Heather (Lauren Ambrose) has the opportunity to work with Leonard, who has long served as her literary hero. As expected, the two form a friendship that is simultaneously beautiful and somewhat inappropriate.

Review: What a great movie title–Starting Out in the Evening–that is the reason I watched this movie. Well, that and Frank Langella. This is a familiar story in some regards–the elderly genius is rejuvenated by the young love interest. Although, the plot is not quite that simple because Leonard is not quite that simple.

Langella’s performance is really what saves the film. He plays the character perfectly–taking Leonard from typical to exceptional–from static to dynamic.

One more thing that I’d like to note is that I did like that the movie didn’t wrap up in a nice bow. Leonard doesn’t meet Heather and be cured of all his recent writing ailments. Heather helps him to enjoy the last chapter of his life–not write a new one.

I could go on, but to be truthful–I don’t have much else to say about the movie and I don’t wish to waste the reader’s time. I will say this one last thing–at one point Leonard references a book critic who describes his style as just trying to “read the hell out of the book.” I think that’s a great quote–I’m going to try to watch the hell out of some movies. That is all.

Rating: 6.1

Recommendation: If it’s on tv and you like to watch movies about the human drama then go for it. Otherwise you’re going to want to avoid.


Frost/Nixon Review

January 23, 2009

frost-nixon-cp-2825677

Reviewed By: Average Joe

Synopsis: After three years of silence President Richard Nixon agrees to a one-on-one, all-inclusive interview with British television personality David Frost.

Review: Yeah. I know I thought the same thing. I anticipated good acting from Frank Langella (Nixon) and Michael Sheen (Frost), but a very wordy, slow and boring movie. To my surprise (and maybe it shouldn’t have been with Ron Howard at the helm), I was enthralled by the suspense throughout.

The movie uses 1st person interviews from supporting characters to advance the spots where it could potentially lag. Speaking of supporting characters, both Kevin Bacon and Toby Jones were solid, but I was especially impressed by Sam Rockwell’s portrayal of crack researcher James Reston Jr.

The analogy is completely overdone, but since I’m just an Average Joe I will tell you upfront, this movie is like watching a brilliant boxing match, but not necessarily of two heavyweights, as most people would have you think.

No, Nixon was a once esteemed prizefighter grasping to his legacy and yearning for one last battle that will enable him to avenge the end of his career (i.e. Watergate). Frost was a journeyman, having achieved solid success, but certainly never held the crown. But like most fighters, he had one astounding performance in him, and needed the right competitor to bring it out.

It’s easy to see why Nixon wanted this battle. Tricky Dick would easily out manipulate the aloof television personality and restore his place atop the elite. What some people won’t understand is why Nixon fueled the fire to ensure an epic battle. (Side Note: This was a brilliant rant that Mr. Film Snob will probably appreciate). The short answer is that competitors want competition; it’s more gratifying if you had to let it all hang out to prevail.

The best part about the movie for me wasn’t even the carefully crafted dialogue (I’m telling you Film Snob – you’ll appreciate it), but the subtleties and nuances that drive the suspense. I loved the stare down between the two camps, the reference to getting punched in the face, and the significance of the shoes (you’ll see what I mean).

Nixon’s incapable of being ‘human’ until he’s free from his burden, and Langella conveys this struggle to the point that even those that thought Nixon was a monster might empathize (or at least come to understand) why he was the way he was. Credit Langella for a brilliant performance, one worthy of his Oscar nomination.

If I have one nit-pick it might be that it was actually a little anti-climatic after being built up well; so strategically.

Rating: 8.9

Verdict: Go in like I did with expectations of a wordy, boring, slow movie, and come out feeling impressed and energized by one of the top 5 films of the year. Witness a solid story, great acting, and make sure you aim to catch all the subtleties of this surprisingly suspenseful tale of Tricky Dick’s prizefight fight with Frost.