Directed by Diane Keaton
Review by Matt Heffernan
The day after my quite manly Vin Diesel Double Feature, I settled in for the latest Meg Ryan vehicle from Nora Ephron. This time, there is no Tom Hanks, and the screenplay is based on the novel Hanging Up by Nora's sister Delia. So, Nora and Delia write and produce, while Diane Keaton co-stars and directs. A whole lot of estrogen in the theatre -- and not one bat-alien.
Walter Matthau plays a retired screenwriter at the very end of his life. His health is failing and dementia is setting in, so his three daughters put him in the hospital. Actually, it is the middle daughter, Eve (Ryan), who does most of the work. Older sister Gerogia (Keaton) runs a succesful magazine (called Georgia, of all things) while younger sister Maddy (Lida Kudrow) is busy acting on a soap opera. This leaves Eve, who runs a party planning service, to be their father's liason with the other sisters and deal with the hospital.
Eve basically runs her whole life over the phone. She is organizing an affair at the Nixon Library, and is constantly getting calls and faxes. She gets constant calls from her father whenever he is lucid enough to dial the phone. She even does three-way calls with her sisters. With everything going on, it's amazing that she doesn't give out before the old man.
Like previous Ephron comedies, Hanging Up is meant to be "heartfelt". The film starts out very strong, with lots of funny material for Matthau. As his character declines, so does the film. Attempts at serious tear-jerking are mostly unsuccessful. The characters are too thin to feel any real compassion for their situation. Certainly, losing a parent is a devastating thing, but a film needs to express this devastation, not just take the issue for granted.
The running theme of relationships via the telephone is an interesting idea, but it is a detraction. As the characters become detached from the people they speak to, the audience becomes detached from their relationship. When there is direct human interaction, it's like finding an oasis in a vast desert. With such a good cast, didn't anybody think to have them actually acting together? Certainly, that would be against the intent of the book, so perhaps it wasn't such a good idea to film it.
Boyfriends and husbands beware: if you liked Pitch Black, getting dragged into this film could be torture. But that's what you get for putting your girlfriend or wife through bat-aliens.
For more information, go to the Internet Movie Database:
Hanging Up (2000)
Video Pick of the Week
Guide to Star Ratings
Review © 2000 Matt Heffernan