In Starting Out in the Evening, veteran actor Frank Langella finally gets his hands on the sort of meaty role everyone's always known he could handle. And he does, playing Leonard Schiller, an aging New York novelist who's been struggling with his last book for a decade. Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose is the hot young grad student determined to bring him out of his shell and rescue his work for the rest of the world, but the spotlight settles on Langella. His Schiller is repressed, uptight and precise, possessing years of sorrow, a strict moral sensibility and a strained relationship with his daughter (Lili Taylor). It's not a towering performance—instead it's subtle yet extremely impressive, without overpowering the film's bookish dialogue and meandering subplots.
In many ways, the problems lie with Ariel, Taylor's character, and her relationship with Casey (Adrian Lester), a longtime ex with whom she has recently reconnected. Taylor, as always, is wonderful, but any time the film shifts away from Langella, it loses a sense of importance. Still, Langella alone is enough to create a truly mature, adult experience, ideal for grown-ups on a date or, perhaps, a senior matinée.Write to email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.