Today I saw Starting Out in the Evening, starring Frank Langella and Lauren Ambrose.
The narrative takes us into the lives of washed-up novelist Leonard Shiller (Langella) and righteous graduate student Heather Wolf (Ambrose). Her mission seems to be resurrecting his career, while his goal is simply to finish his final book before dying. He is a senior citizen with heart problems; she is a twentysomething with a hungry heart.
It's inevitable that in the course of her spending time with him to complete her thesis (based on him) that these two will develop a chemistry. Thankfully, they do. It's what saves this film from being a completely predictable starry-eyed-girl-wants-crotchety-old-man bore.
Although Heather is slightly too righteous to be endearing, there are so many real people like her, I could look past her irritating nature. What's also great is the subplot of Leonard's daughter Ariel (played by the amazing Lili Taylor—Ambrose's former Six Feet Under co-star) and her inability to have a successful relationship.
The thing is, all of these characters seem to be making the choices they need to make for themselves as their lives intersect. Heather is persistent in her quest for information from Leonard (and in her sexual attraction to him), Leonard will only talk about the topics of his choosing and fights to focus on his writing. Ariel wrestles with feelings for two men in her life; neither who share her desire to have children.
These simple, yet interesting situations are all presented in a well-acted, well-written package with believable dialogue and character progression.
I'll confess to being alternately touched and disgusted by Leonard and Heather's love story, but I can't help but admit it felt real.
I also wouldn't be surprised if Langella and/or Taylor were nominated for their performances.
Nor would I be sorry if they won.