Starting Out In The Evening

Every film adapted from a novel paraphrases and abbreviates, but the remarkable thing about the second feature of Andrew Wagner (The Talent Given Us), adapted with Fred Parnes from Brian Morton’s lovely novel, is how faithfully it renders the main characters: a Jewish New York novelist in his 70s (Frank Langella), ailing and mainly forgotten; a grad student in her mid-20s (Lauren Ambrose) who’s inspired by his early work and writing a thesis about him; his daughter (Lili Taylor), a former dancer pushing 40 who wants to have a baby; and her former boyfriend (Adrian Lester), a black academic who has a son from a previous marriage and doesn’t want another child. Part of Morton’s achievement is to present all four people through the viewpoints of the other three; Wagner can’t do that, but the performances are so nuanced that the characters remain multilayered, and they’re not the sort of people we’re accustomed to finding in commercial films. PG-13, 111 min. (JR)

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