Starting Out in the Evening
Un-ambitious film about modest writer fails to offer literary spark
Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose) isn’t a very good grad student in Starting Out in the Evening, the sophomore effort from Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us). She neglects to record and scarcely takes notes as she interviews Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella), a once-respected novelist near the end of his life. Nor does she—or the film itself—raise any more provocative a point about literature than the tired challenge of biographical analysis. Vet stage actor Langella is stoic as the flat-topped/horn-rimmed Schiller, whose main drama comes in slow-moving silence and the rustling of button-down shirts. Stiff dialogue and swelling strings abound. “Maybe the characters in your books have time to grapple with moral issues, but I live in the real world,” Schiller is told, though it’s hard to remember by whom. “Your novels set me free,” Heather says passionately, lacking the emotional depth alluded to in even Schiller’s worst work.