May 15, 2008
Netflix DVD
111 Minutes
Andrew Wagner [The Talent Given Us]

This film does a lot of little things well. Frank Langella is a writer of some note, the author of four books, whose been working on his fifth for more than ten years. He has an extremely regimented life–rising at the same hour, working at the same hour, ordering the same lunch, etc. Lili Taylor is his almost 40 daughter who is craving a child but her true love, Casey, has made that a deal breaker. Father and daughter have an easy connection, attending dance recitals, book readings, and other New York art events.

Lauren Ambrose appears as a Brown University grad student who wants to write her thesis on Langella. She is simultaneously in love with his work and the him she knows him to be. She is 20something, he is 60something. But with Langella’s intelligent eyes and Ambrose’s optimistic youth (her Ivy League vocabulary struggling to cover up her giddiness), the thought of these two together as some kind of couple isn’t as strange as it might at first seem.

Langella is excellent as a gruff, by the book, quiet author. He doesn’t say much, he responds to Ambrose’s questions with thoughtful, though cold answers. She wants to get at the heart of his work. Ambrose is really the surprise here. If you’ve only seen her as the youngest of the Fisher clan on Six Feet Under, you’re in for a treat. I completely bought that she was a brilliant grad student who is widely read and could pull off the revitalization of Langella’s career with the right literary criticism. She is tough-acting, vulnerable, and when she puts forth all the theories bouncing around inside of her huge brain, it’s hard not to fall for her. And the way she looks at him with such feeling.

Lili Taylor chalks up another of her perfectly noted performances. From the trailer, you wouldn’t guess that she has such a large part in the film. She is struggling with her love for Casey and the two of them together make an almost perfect pair. Taylor suffered a breakup with him five years prior that resulted in her not leaving her bed for several months. But they look at each other with such love, that you wonder why they can’t get that one huge disagreement settled and live happily ever after.

This film gets New York City right. Which may sound ridiculous coming from a person whose never lived there. They mention traffic and sharing cabs and coffee shops. They have their own neighborhoods where they know the waitress and the cafe owner. They go to events at the 92nd Street YMCA, they watch the Dance Theater of Harlem perform. They attend book release parties. At least, to me, it seemed like they got the NYC that an author of his age would inhabit right. Even the doorman’s character seems realistic.

This film is about so much more than a young woman infatuated, influenced, and interested in a man in the twilight of his productive years. It’s about four people living in New York City. And it is terrific.

7.8 Metacritic
6.9 IMDB


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Written by Michael W. Cummins