Hanging Up

on February 18, 2000 by Wade Major
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When three of Hollywood's most talented comediennes team up with one of Hollywood's most legendary comic actors to star in a movie scripted by two of the industry's most successful romantic-comedy screenwriters only to deliver a mostly dramatic meditation on the stress and fractures of familial dysfunction, there's trouble brewing. It's understandable, then, that Columbia Pictures has seen fit to market "Hanging Up" as an ensemble comedy rather than a dramatic Meg Ryan vehicle. The ploy, however, will be short-lived. Once audiences catch drift of just how convoluted and shallow the exercise really is, the film and its marketing will be dead in the water.
   Ryan stars as Eve Mozell, a high-class party planner desperately trying to balance the roles of wife, mother and daughter, picking up the slack left by her neglectful sisters--aspiring actress Maddy (Lisa Kudrow) and publishing mogul Georgia (Diane Keaton)--in caring for their cantankerous and increasingly infirm father, Lou (Walter Matthau). As Lou's mind and body deteriorate, Eve's life is thrown precipitously into disorder, inflaming old filial wounds and aggravating deep-seated sibling rivalries.
   Scripted by Nora and Delia Ephron from their book and based loosely on "truths" about their own father, "Hanging Up" is a classic case of too much distilled into too little--an emotionally rich book strip-mined for its essential elements and squashed into a vapid script that superficially covers too much territory too quickly. Scenes and flashbacks blitz by at light speed, only scratching the surface of the film's themes in a reckless stampede to the 90-minute mark. By the end, the film's points are lost in a wreckage of story elements that never seemed to belong together to begin with.
   Other missteps only worsen the impact, namely director Diane Keaton's decision to cast herself in a role for which she is clearly too old. Kudrow, meanwhile, is given next to nothing to do while Matthau slogs through a role so ill-defined that even he doesn't seem quite sure when he should be despicable and when he should be funny. Only Ryan escapes from the debacle with some degree of dignity--a strong, heartfelt performance at the center of a silly, mixed-up movie. Starring Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin and Cloris Leachman. Directed by Diane Keaton. Written by Delia Ephron & Nora Ephron. Produced by Laurence Mark and Nora Ephron. A Columbia release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for language and some sex-related material. Running time: 92 min
Tags: Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin and Cloris Leachman. Directed by Diane Keaton. Written by Delia Ephron, Nora Ephron. Produced by Laurence Mark, Nora Ephron, Columbia, Drama
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