In Starting Out in the Evening (2007), Frank Langella is heartbreakingly good as author Leonard Schiller, a once-celebrated author forgotten in the years since his last novel and flattered by the attention of an appreciative graduate student (Lauren Ambrose) intent on reintroducing his work to the world with her thesis. His discreet performance, all politeness and gentlemanly manner, is a model of quiet restraint covering a lifetime of experience, and his work was unfairly overlooked at Oscar time, drowned out by the bold, brawny performances carved out of testosterone and drive and gritty assurance.
The sophomore feature from director Andrew Wagner, who adapts the novel by Brian Morton, is a marvelous, nuanced work with rich characters and complicated relationships, and he embraces their faults with as much love as their generosity. It’s also a rare film that grapples intelligently and perceptively with the drive to make art (in this case literature) and the labor and toll of writing.
Lili Taylor co-stars as his adult daughter, suspicious of the acolyte’s attentions, and Adrian Lester is her old boyfriend, who broke her heart and now stirs up Leonard’s protective instincts when he moves back into town and into his daughter’s life.
The Lionsgate DVD features commentary by director Andrew Wagner.