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Entries in Lauren Ambrose (1)
“Starting Out in the Evening” (2007) is actually a film about more than just writers and the craft of writing. It’s about family, career, ambition, following one’s passions, facing death and disappointments . . . and probably a few other things along the way.
Some may find the film a bit slow and obsessively internally focused. What else can one expect? After all, it’s about the world and the process of being a writer, for goodness sake. (Well, actually, we’re not really too sure for whose sake any of this writing stuff is really for in the end. It seems to me that the film desperately wants to convince us that art for art’s sake is its own reason for being.)
Leonard Schiller has lived the life of a New York intellectual. He now has lots of time to reflect on whether it has all been worth it as he faces the illness and incapacity of old age. He’s been stuck with a bad case of writer’s block for years now. It is high time to face up to the truth: neither he nor the characters of his latest novel are going anywhere. A bright young grad student (Lauren Ambrose) intent on building her own career helps Schiller to realize that he has been following his characters around for years in vain, “waiting for them to do something interesting”. Schiller is faced in the end with a moral dilemma that cuts to the core of his artistic and personal integrity. Does he have the courage to face life the way it really is with its disappointments and limitations and still engage fully in the creative process? Will he do it this time in a wiser, less self-centred way?
Schiller’s daughter, Ariel, has a different dilemma. Her life as a former dancer is anchored in a much more physical day-to-day reality, in contrast to her father’s intellectual pursuits. Ariel has to face her own moral dilemmas and internal wrestlings as she processes what it means to her to be pushing 40 and still be childless. Conflicted desires and yearning for fulfillment bubble up as she faces the mandatory “early retirement” of her dancing career and encounters a former lover who has other priorities in life. (See the video clip.)
Not the film to see if you’re in the mood for an adrenalin rush or up for mindless movie-watching with lots of microwave popcorn on hand . . . It certainly does have its merits though. If you’re not in a rush, why not spend a couple of hours mulling things over with this engaging piece of cinema.
>>More to see: Looking for more out of life?
>>Real Life Story: Successful author, Anne Rice, tells of how the exploration of her personal demons led to writing a series of vampire novels before taking a surprising twist later on in her professional life.
Understand more about "The Written Life" as depicted in SNAM's Interviews about two films which take on the subject of authors and the work of the author. The films described in the Interviews are "Starting Out in the Evening" (2007) and "Infamous" (2006).
See the trailer for "Starting Out in the Evening" (2007)