Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Starting Out In The Evening

Just when I thought the best days of North American film had come and gone I watched, "Starting Out In The Evening."

This film was wonderfully engaging. All of its characters were true. They were not at all the typical in your face actors that are so filled with their own ego it gets in the way of the character they are portraying. Subsequently, diminishing the story they are sharing with their audience.

Frank Langella, how many times must he have heard, you aren't leading man material? He always played strong supporting roles and he is surely an excellent actor. But taking the lead like this? His performance was absolutely masterful. He was Leonard Schiller. Bravo! His performance was subtle and understated and genuine. His relationships never felt insincere. There were no lapses between the consciousness he was creating and the one he was so generously sharing with his co-stars.

Lili Taylor has a delightful personality but I always felt it got in the way of the character she was portraying. She was too eager. Not willing to allow her self to disappear. Needing to act just right, straight into the camera, as though that was where her need for approval would be satisfied. At least that was the way I felt when I watched her perform before. But in this film she did the damn thing. She was gentle and authentic. There wasn't one minute when I was distracted from who she was in this movie by who she was as an actor. Lili was another delightful surprise in ,"Starting Out In The Evening." Well done.

Lauren Ambrose could have very easily been an ambitious cliche but she wasn't. She was complex, deliciously east coat real and she did her character with the ease of a master's brush. How lovely. And so young.

Adrian Lester gave a quietly charming and multi-dimensional performance that was never for a second disingenuous. He was a man without being macho and he was a thinking man without being a wuss. That's rare these days. I loved the way his character began on the periphery and then came into focus as he became more engaged with the other characters in this film.

All this being said, the stellar performances of all of these actors must be in some part due to the director, Andrew Wagner, who also co-wrote the screen play, along with Fred Parnes. I so enjoyed being taken away, into a world that was honest and layered with life's experiences and heart. It was yummy. You didn't take the short cut and tell me what was happening. You created a lovely venue for the story of these characters to unfold. I felt like I was experiencing, right along with them, what was going on in their lives. There is so little patience and attention to skillful writing these days. And directors that give the actor the guidance and space to not "tell us" everything. We go right along with these actors as they are thinking about life or what they are going to do or not do next.

Just when I thought good writing and good material and insightful direction had become a sacrifice to the big picture, bottom line crap I've seen in North American films, this lovely gem appears on the shelf at my library and my faith in our ability to share a good story has been restored. Oh, and the soundtrack as the movie closes is enchanting too. All the way around and through this movie was aces.

On a personal note, I often feel like I've cheated death when I've finished a piece. I feel like popping a bottle of champagne and making a declarative toast in my living room, "Aha!! I finished another one before you got me!" I'm motivated to write and paint something true. Whether it is ever read or recognized by anyone else is irrelevant. To reveal this in the Leonard Schiller character was so cool. I've seen writers portrayed as drinkers and thinkers but dedicated to their work, regardless of what others think about it? Being willing to reveal themselves through their work, even when it is unintentional? Well, that was just the berries. And definitely invigorating.

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