Starting Out in the Evening

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Faithful in style and spirit to the award-winning novel by Brian Morton, Andrew Wagner's wise, observant, and exquisitely tacit chamber piece complicates every May-December, academic-novel cliché. A mutually dependent relationship unfolds between Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella), an old-school writer of the Bellow-Roth-Howe generation of realists; and Heather (Six Feet Under's Lauren Ambrose), the eager-beaver Brown University grad who tries to persuade him that her forthcoming master's thesis on his work will put a new shine on the old man's dusty reputation. Wagner's grasp of the clash between old and new academe is witty and quietly assured — neither world gets off lightly, or without sympathy. If Starting Out is a movie about how little we know and how much we presume, it is also about transformation, about heartbreak and halting renewal.

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