Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) is an aging writer and former college literature professor. Now in his seventies, he lives alone in a New York City brownstone apartment. Years ago Leonard wrote two well-received novels, and was feted along with literary lions like Saul Bellow. But those days are long gone. His third and fourth novels were disappointing, and Leonard has spent the past ten years struggling to finish a fifth novel. He suffered a heart attack a year ago, and lives in lonely seclusion, visited only by his daughter Ariel (Lili Taylor) who is single, turning forty and is trying to define her relationship with boyfriend Casey Davis (Adrian Lester).
Into Leonard's life comes Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), a young woman whose life was transformed by his early work, and who is writing her master's thesis on him and his novels. Starry-eyed Heather is convinced that she can resurrect Leonard's career and get his novels published again. What Leonard doesn't realize is that Heather has fallen in love with the handsome, passionate young Leonard Schiller who wrote those novels fifty years earlier, and what starts out as an interview process becomes something much more.
As we observe Leonard and Heather we're given a peek into the minds of both the writer and the literary critic, as well as a glimpse into the thought process of writing a novel. The screenplay, direction and acting are all outstanding, and Langella and Ambrose have excellent chemistry. This feels like a four-person stage play, since most of the action takes place in Leonard's apartment. If you enjoy deliberately-paced, character-driven dramas with an intellectual theme, a multi-generational gap between the leads, and romantic overtones, films like Crashing, The Girl in the Cafe or Suburban Girl, then you might enjoy Starting Out in the Evening.
Labels: drama, romance
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RottenTomatoes Averages (critics=73, viewers=72)