Langella at Four Seasons

The best thing in Andrew Wagner‘s Starting Out in the Evening (Roadside, 11.23) is Frank Langella‘s performance as a sixtyish, once-great novelist named Leonard Schiller who’s retreated into a congealed, emotionally blocked-off place as a defense from the narcotized reality that his writing career has all but shrivelled up and died.

Sixth-floor lobby of the Four Seasons on Friday, 10.19.07, at 11:05 am.

I can’t say I “liked” the character but I was moved by the undercurrents that Langella is able to suggest exist within. At first Schiller is a guy whose purpose in life seems to be to find new ways to be dull. Everything he says sounds slightly condescending and a little too pat. He dressed like a banker with a head cold. There’s no hint of any kind of a Manhattan iconoclast in him whatsoever. At first I wanted to see him get hit by a cab or a bus, but I slowly began to care for the guy and relate to his fears and regrets.

The story is about Schiller feeling vaguely irritated, intrigued and then finally aroused by a graduate student (Lauren Ambrose) who tries to get to know him so she can write a senior thesis about his novels. Naturally, certain longings kick in, and this May-December, teacher-pupil relationship gradualy becomes…uhm, not quite sexual but something more than platonic. On top of which there’s Schiller’s 39 year-old daughter (Lili Taylor) and his being concerned about her search for a lasting relationship and the right man to father a child.

I’m especially excited about seeing Langella’s performance as Richard Nixon in Ron Howard‘s movie of Frost/Nixon, which will be out sometime next fall. Langella is just now starting work on Richard Kelly‘s The Box, which is shooting in Boston. He’s a very good and bright fellow and an immensely respected actor. He used to live in my home town of Wilton, Connecticut, in the early to mid ’70s .

Here’s an mp3 of a chat I had with Langella last week on Friday, 10.19, at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills.

  • bmcintire

    It quietly and tastefully screams boring. And what’s with that horrible stilted and out-of-nowhere narration that comes in nearly 40 seconds into the damned thing with “Now a young student. . .” and is followed-up with “. . . will teach him” nearly 30 seconds after that? While I’m complaining, will someone please tell Roadside Attractions to get a new logo treatment? I keep expecting it to be followed by something along the lines of VEGGIE TALES every time I see it.

  • BurmaShave

    Not to put a Poland curse on him, but is there any way Frank Langella doesn’t walk away with the Best Actor trophy in March 2009? It’s time, isn’t it? Unless Howard totally bungles the transfer to film, I don’t see how he isn’t a near lock. I especially appreciated his work on HBO’s ‘Unscripted’

  • p.Vice

    Well, the Academy already robbed him for his brilliant work in Cutthroat Island, so he should have it locked down on that criteria alone.

  • T. Holly

    I saw this same kind of story in “Man in the Chair” with Chris Plummer, which played really well to a SAG audience — I got sent to that room and didn’t regret it. I love these old geezers: Peter O’Toole, Hal Holbrook, Christopher, Frank… I’m going have so much fun when I’m 60.

  • alexandertg5

    “Man in the Chair” has won a bunch of top awards at regional film festivals. It just won Audience Choice Award at the Heartland Film Festival, beating “Lars and the Real Girl” (placed 2nd) and Bella (placed 3rd).

  • This is a terrific picture, with Langella giving a more tightly clenched and restrained performance than I’ve ever seen him deliver. His best film performance for now, I’d say, till he recreates Frost/Nixon on film. (He is a joy to watch on stage, if not our finest stage actor surely the most fun.)

  • erniesouchak

    Um…exactly how does “a banker with a head cold” dress? Someone help me out here.

  • Glad to see Langella getting major props decades after DRACULA.

  • T. Holly

    Wells is always so much nicer in the interview to the subject than he is in the thing he writes up for us.

    Hey, anyone know if the WGA letter David Poland posted under “Need to Know” is real? Or could it possibly be a hoax, because it’s gotten no traction, anywhere I can find.