Starting Out in the Evening (2007)

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Released 6-May-2009

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Drama Audio Commentary-Director Andrew Wagner
Theatrical Trailer-(2.13)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2007
Running Time 108:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Andrew Wagner
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Frank Langella
Lauren Ambrose
Patti Perkins
Lili Taylor
Adrian Lester
Dennis Parlato
Jeff McCarthy
Michael Cumpsty
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI ? Music Adam Gorgoni


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.85:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

  

Frank Langella delivers a career-capping performance as a man
who must redefine his work - and his perceptions
- in the twilight of his life.

This bit of studio puffery from the blurb on the back of the case of 2007's Starting Out in the Evening contains one of those delicious ironies that abound in the performing arts. Of course, Frank Langella did deliver his career-capping performance in 2007/2008 but for another film, Frost/Nixon. In fact that is no slight on Starting Out... which features Langella at the height of his powers. It just happens that, occasionally, an actor can have an unexpected bloom, delivering a pair of key performances of their career.

Whilst Langella's performance in Frost/Nixon drew international accolades his turn in Starting Out... had a more select appreciation, with the actor picking up the Boston Film Critics Award for Male Lead. The film itself rated high with the critics, securing 86% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, but predictably sank into the box office swamp.

Starting Out... was directed by sophomore Andrew Wagner,based on the novel by Brian Morton. In it Langella plays Leonard Schiller, an ageing writer. Leonard was once a literary lion and author of four well received novels. But that was a long time ago and the novels are now out-of-print. Leonard struggles to complete his fifth and last novel a task that has taken him some 10 years.

Leonard is a widower. His daughter Ariel (Lily Taylor) is also adrift. Desperate for a child she is still smarting from a failed relationship with Casey (Adrian Lester), a man seemingly perfect in every way except for his lack of desire for fatherhood.

When Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), a grad student looking to do her thesis on Leonard, knocks at his door Leonard expresses surprise and dismay. Why would anyone want to write about him? He brushes her off, claiming that he is too busy with his novel for interviews. But Heather is one persisitent lady. She gets his grudging acquiescence by hinting at that one thing he truly desires - immortality. Maybe her thesis can bring his reputation back to where it was in his heydey.

As Heather and Leonard get to know each other their relationship deepens and begins to approach intimacy. Those who put septugenarian meets "barely out of teen" love into the "ick" basket need to know that there is some degree of intimacy between the two and, further, that the film has a side on if not head-on male nudity scene. Langella, fearless in his role is unafraid to show the human frailty behind the keen mind of Leonard Schiller.

As Heather delves deeper she finds more and more about the history of her subject but she can't shake the terrible feeling that his best work was in his first two books and the last two have been shadows of his former self. She pushes him to leave his final book as his testament.

As said, Langella inhabits this writer with a degree of nuance and depth that comes only after a lifetime of practicing the craft. Wagner films simply, allowing his characters to inhabit the frame and exude their stories. The script by Fred Barnes in association with the director is subtle and reflexive - it will have no appeal to those who like their "lost writer" stories more direct like Finding Forrester. Lili Taylor and Lauren Ambrose are both Six Feet Under alumni. They are adept at playing troubled women. Here both are real and believable every minute as they strive for their own "last hopes".

Starting Out in the Evening is one of the few films about writers that doesn't play them as tortured half humans. Leonard has writing as a job. Each day he sits at his typewriter and bangs away. It's just that, as he says towards the end, sometimes he finds the keys.

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Transfer Quality

Video

  Starting Out in the Evening was shot on High Definition digital video at a native 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It comes to DVD at a standard widescreen ratio. It is 16x9 enhanced.

The film is mainly shot at night and in Leonard's home, with its dark furniture the dominant theme. Exteriors are mainly at night. Therefore, no-one should come to this film expecting eye-popping visuals. That said,the transfer is stable and the colours are well defined.

There are no issues with compression and the print is free of artefacts and blemishes. Digital noise is no problem. All in all a decent solid transfer.

There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    Starting Out in the Evening contains two Dolby Digital audio options, a 5.1 track running at 448Kb/s and a 2.0 track running at 224Kb/s.

Whilst a surround track is always a natural preference the truth is that it adds little to the film. This is a chamber piece with very little by way of ambient sound. Many of the conversations are conducted in Leonard's kitchen with dead silence as a backdrop.

There are no technical problems with the soundtracks and dialogue can be heard clearly throughout.

The music is by a blend of artists and original score is by Adam Gorgoni. It is delicate and unobtrusive.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Audio Commentary

This DVD contains only one sizable extra, a commentary track by the director and co-writer of the film. Wagner is a clear and direct speaker and communicates his ideas with expertise. Those who like their commentary tracks full of insider tidbits will perhaps be disappointed that the director really concentrates on the story elements, explaining the purpose of the scenes as they unfold. Still, worth a listen.

Theatrical Trailer

A trailer which accurately conveys the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This film has been released in identical form in other Regions. Choose the PAL Region 4.

Summary

   Starting Out in the Evening is a fine study of the art of writing and the writer's soul.It is intellectual in its approach and demands a fair bit of the viewer. All lovers of drama will be able to admire Frank Langella's performance.

The DVD transfer of this subtle film is fine in both the sound and vision departments.

The only real extra, the commentary track, is worth a listen if only to assist in the interpretation of the film.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, June 29, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

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