Starting Out in the Evening


Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    The movie is carefully modulated to draw us deeper and deeper into the situation, and uses no contrived plot devices to superimpose plot jolts on what is, after all, a story involving four civilized people who are only trying, each in a different way, to find happiness.
  2. 100
    A rapturous, ruefully funny flight of sympathetic imagination. Featuring the first movie role for Frank Langella that ranks with his best stage parts, it's a rare kind of American movie.
  3. Above all is Langella, achingly vulnerable under layers of flesh. In one scene, alone, he eats peanut butter intensely, thoughtfully, and nothing he could do as Hamlet would seem deeper or more poetic.
  4. 100
    Intelligent, involving and conspicuously adult, Starting Out in the Evening is almost shocking in its distinctiveness, its ability to create high drama from an unlikely source.
  5. Succeeds so beautifully because of a compelling story, great acting, intelligent writing and sensitive direction.
  6. Andrew Wagner has made a lovely comedy of death and rebirth.
  7. 90
    What is so remarkable about Mr. Langella is that he seems to hold Leonard’s intellectual cosmos inside him, to make it implicit in the man’s every gesture and pause.
  8. 90
    It's rare to see a movie adaptation in which a filmmaker has taken so much care in translating the odd little qualities that make a particular novel special, to preserve the complex and fragile threads of feeling between characters that are often much easier to grasp on the page.
  9. Whether this reserved, hypercautious widower can deal with the arousal she creates in him - let alone be physically able to act on it - is one of the many layers of tension that drive this unusual and absolutely riveting dance.
  10. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    We are slowly and mightily drawn into this intimate story, which is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally moving.
  11. Director Andrew Wagner, adapting a novel by Brian Morton, is sometimes understated to a fault, but his work with the actors, who also include Lili Taylor as Leonard's daughter, is impeccable.
  12. 80
    Langella is superb, and Starting Out in the Evening is a classy film.
  13. 80
    Movies about writers are almost always romanticized affairs but Starting Out in the Evening is the rare exception. It is at once an elegy for the vanishing generation of Bellow, Cheever, Mailer and Updike and a dead on indictment of our culture’s current state.
  14. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Director Andrew Wagner draws topnotch work from a pro cast in Starting Out in the Evening, a wise, carefully observed chamber drama.
  15. 80
    This wise, observant, and exquisitely tacit chamber piece complicates every May-December, academic-novel cliché in the book.
  16. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Like most of this refreshingly subtle film, it's not what you expect, and it's not something you've seen before.
  17. Because the characters are richly realized and their dialogue rings true, we stick around, rooting for something like a happy ending.
  18. If the film has a weakness, it's an ending that's so vague and open to interpretation that it's not at all clear how director Andrew Wagner ultimately wants us to feel about these self-absorbed characters and their precious literary concerns. But the performances carry the day.
  19. A "small" movie. But in its keenly observed examination of strangers who become intimates - and of family members who remain, in part, strangers - it has big things to say.
  20. It never commits the sin of sentimentalizing old age, as Hollywood usually does when it deigns to admit that people over 55 exist.
  21. This is a human-sized drama about people with contradictory motives, trying to help or use each other.
  22. 75
    Fact is, Starting Out is pretty dry stuff as a movie, even as it's enlivened by vivid acting.
  23. 75
    Langella delivers a master class in acting. He's playing Leonard Schiller, an aging author aching from the loss of his wife, a weak heart and literary neglect.
  24. 75
    It's a gentle, unhurried drama about how people can connect with each other through conversation, nonverbal gestures, and writing.
  25. 75
    Taylor also makes an impressive comeback as the conflicted daughter who instinctively distrusts Heather, but Starting Out in the Evening is first and foremost a triumph by Frank Langella.
  26. Part of Morton's achievement is to present all four people through the viewpoints of the other three; Wagner can't do that, but the performances are so nuanced that the characters remain multilayered, and they're not the sort of people we're accustomed to finding in commercial films.
  27. 67
    It's also and most interestingly about the writing process itself, a difficult feat to pull off on film, which Wagner and co-screenwriter Fred Parnes manage to display with unvarnished realism.
  28. 63
    A gentle collection of scenes that work and scenes that don't.
  29. 63
    Taylor is effective as a woman struggling to take control of her life, but Ambrose's work feels shallow in comparison.
  30. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Starting Out never builds to the explosive climax it seems to be heading for, which I suppose is a good thing for its overall integrity, but maybe not so good for its motion-picture value.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 22 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 10
  2. Negative: 2 out of 10
  1. ChadS.
    Apr 25, 2008
    In Noam Bambauch's "The Squid and the Whale", Walt Berkman(Jesse Eisenberg) corrects his younger brother on a New York sidewalk, when In Noam Bambauch's "The Squid and the Whale", Walt Berkman(Jesse Eisenberg) corrects his younger brother on a New York sidewalk, when Frank(Owen Kline) talks about the "magazine" that published their mother's short story. As if the smaller Berkman gives a flying f***, the bigger Berkman with the bigger brain, informs his tennis buff bro that their mother's short story came out in a "literary journal". Owen is a philistine. And later in the film, a self-proclaimed one. Ariel Schiller(Lili Taylor) is a philistine, too. Much to her father's silent chagrin, she doesn't speak his language. Heather(Lauren Ambrose) is working on a thesis, not a "book", that examines the out-of-print novels of a forgotten writer, novelist Leonard Schiller(Frank Langella). Ariel might be a yoga instructor, but she's older and wiser than Owen. Knowing full-well what was expected of a writer's daughter(named after Sylvia Plath's first book of poems), maybe Ariel purposely misspoke, to underscore Leonard's lost invitation to the pantheon of literary greats. Books are written about his contemporaries. But he's no Saul Bellow("The Adventures of Augie March"). Apparently, he wasn't much of a father either, at one time. Vestiges from this rocky past can be gleaned by the omission of an "I", when both father and daughter say they love each other("Love you," not "I love you."). In "The Squid and the Whale", we're witnesses to the storm. How children can drown in the vortex of their writer/father's megalomania. In "Starting Out in the Evening", we see the calm that comes after. More or less, Ariel survived. She's single and motherless, but far from being human wreckage. When Leonard finally relents, and admits to Heather, that his own life experiences do indeed inform his novels, its from a viewpoint of objectivity. "Starting Out in the Evening" is objective, too. Since there are no flashbacks to the earlier incarnation of this absentee dad, Leonard survives our scrutiny, our close reading, and doesn't come off as a tyrant. Full Review »
  2. JayH.
    Apr 19, 2008
    I am surprised the ratings on this are so high. It's not a bad film but it sure is not an exciting one and I was bored with it at times. I am surprised the ratings on this are so high. It's not a bad film but it sure is not an exciting one and I was bored with it at times. Finely acted though and it's a good quality film. Full Review »
  3. MasonP.
    Dec 24, 2007
    Awful, awful movie. Bad writing, bad editing, bad score, bad casting (at least in the female roles). The characters (other than Frank Awful, awful movie. Bad writing, bad editing, bad score, bad casting (at least in the female roles). The characters (other than Frank Langella) simply aren't believable as literary intellectuals--especially Lauren Ambrose. The writing certainly doesn't help. The same awkward scenes played over and over--reminded me of an episode of General Hospital (with a young, handsome doctor replaced by a 70 year-old writer) on repeat. Full Review »