Starting Out in the Evening
One of the favourite flicks is Wonder Boys---the story of a pot-addled writer struggling to produce the follow-up to his much-acclaimed first novel. I thought of it when watching Starting Out in the Evening, another film about a writer struggling to write. Both protagonists get the same lost look on their faces when they sit down with their typewriters. However, unlike Wonder Boys' Grady, Leonard (Frank Langella) doesn't have an editor clamouring to see his new work, or a wise (possibly pregnant) girlfriend. Leonard's grown daughter visits, but Leonard, his novels long out of print, lives and works alone. He's also ailing and sees the book he's working on as his last, which makes the prospect of starting over from scratch daunting. Of course, SOITE's a lesser film than Wonder Boys, largely because its characters take themselves too seriously. In one scene, Heather (Lauren Ambrose), a grad student who takes an interest in Leonard and his work, painstakingly coats Leonard's nose and lips with honey. It's a weird thing to do and neither of them cracks a smile. But the film's a subtle, touching look at the writing process and a worthy spiritual sequel to Boys. If Grady hadn't gotten his act together, lonely Leonard's a guy he could have easily become.