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Starting Out in the Evening

A superb performance from Frank Langella grounds this gentle, winning drama about growing older

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An elderly, nearly forgotten New York City novelist named Lionel Schiller (Frank Langella) finds the comfy but safe twilight of his life jarred by an ambitious and somewhat aggressive graduate student, Heather (Lauren Ambrose), who has made him the subject of her thesis. Heather not only shakes Schiller loose from his myopia and torpor, but also provides the jolt that frees Schiller's restless daughter (Lili Taylor) from her own rut. As its title suggests, Starting Out in the Evening, adapted from Brian Morton's novel, finds hope in the human condition, proving that age, routine and social mores need not impede growth and creativity. Andrew Wagner's quiet drama is an absorbing character study, the centerpiece of which is Langella's marvelously nuanced performance as the buttoned-up Schiller released from dormancy. Starts Fri., April 4. Harris (AH) [capsule review]

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