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HANGING UP

SYNOPSIS:
Seventy-six year old Lou Mozells (Walter Matthau) is aging ungracefully.  He’s bitter that his wife left him.  He’s a recovering alcoholic.  He’s slowly losing his mind. He’s made a vain attempt to end his life.  Yet Lou’s acid-tongue and libido remain in perfect health.  He also has three saving graces - his daughters: Georgia (Diane Keaton), the all-conquering editor of her self-titled magazine; Eve (Meg Ryan), the tightly-wound middle child barely coping with a family of her own and the lion’s share of her Dad’s woes; and Maddy (Lisa Kudrow), the waif-like youngest sibling with a part in a little-watched daytime soap. The phone line acts as an umbilical cord that keeps all four connected until daddy’s-girl Eve - overburdened and unappreciated - is forced to disconnect from her loved-ones if she is to survive their antics.

"Delia Ephron's autobiographical slice-of-family-life screenplay is perhaps as unstructured dramatically as any real family life, but it does come up with a good handful of really sharply observed scenes. And Diane Keaton's direction makes the most of these, such as the climactic row between the three sisters in the final half hour, which not only rings true but carries a terrific punch. So does a difficult, painful scene of Eve visiting her estranged mother. The central story of the love between middle sister Eve and her father springs straight out of her book, and is the emotional engine of the screenplay. In the beginning, there is much amusement at the antics of the sisters and the differences that separate them. Stitched into this comes the ever more retrospective story of how they got to where they are, and the gradually deteriorating health of the father, coinciding with the growing tensions between the sisters. Comedy gives way to a dull patch before turning dramatic and cathartic. That the film changes tone is not necessarily a problem, although positioning it as a straight out comedy with snappy lines and pratfalls is probably no help commercially, creating expectations it doesn't fulfil. Perhaps a tad less schtick with the fluffy dog may have kept the film in the right emotional gear. But Meg Ryan carries the central role with flair and conviction, and her 'sisters' do bitchy justice to the dialogue. Matthau's character is far more engaging than the trailer suggests and Keaton's direction guides the script to an emotional, if unsurprising, payoff."
Andrew L. Urban

"Although Nora Ephron's novel and screenplay are lacking in dynamics, Hanging Up delivers some wonderful moments onscreen largely due to its delightful cast. Looking a million dollars, Meg Ryan is enchanting as Eve, whose love for her father is the focus of her life. In fact Hanging Up is not the comedy about a dysfunctional family we are led to expect, but is a poignant love story between a daughter and her ailing father. It is no mean task to find the successful balance for the recipe when humour and death are the main ingredients. Soft Fruit did it wonderfully and left us with a bittersweet taste reflecting life itself. The first half of the film (much like the book) is fragmented and often jumps around in time. This stops us from becoming as involved as we could, despite some delicious situations. You could be forgiven for believing that phones really are a hazard – they cause car accidents, interrupt meetings and make great chewing material for a restless dog. (But I jest.) But the phone is symbolic of knowing when in life to disconnect, and that message comes across beautifully. Veteran Walter Matthau is marvellous and the scenes between him and Ryan capture the film's tone best of all: they're never played for laughs but exude a touching sincerity. The sibling rivalry, the resentments and the baggage that goes with families and their intimacies are very real and the climactic scene with the sisters sizzles with truth. Flawed but elevated by its performances and observations, Hanging Up does touch the heart and achieves the essence of the black and white of family."
Louise Keller

"Hanging Up has something of a personality problem. It starts out (and has been promoted) as a Meg Ryan comedy. But it soon reveals itself to have deeper concerns - about coming to terms with the death of a loved one; specifically a parent. A laudable enough subject; but its problem is a wafer-thin plot that often descends into schmaltz to get its message across. Of course, it was co-written by Nora Ephron who is to serious drama what John Howard is to rave parties. The script uses tricks, from flashbacks to a "cute" animal, but none comes across as anything more than window dressing around a hackneyed central story. And the denouement has been seen so many times before, it’s almost trite. Still there are things to like about Hanging Up - they’re called Meg Ryan and Walter Matthau. Ryan is great as Eve, the most real of the major characters; even if occasionally she has to do the cute-Meg-Ryan thing. I was never a fan of Matthau’s Grumpy Old Men character and I thought for a while he was reprising the role in this film. But here he transcends that stereotype to show more shades of gray (no pun intended). Lisa Kudrow is very much marginalised as Maddy; as is the excellent Adam Arkin as Eve’s husband. The big disappointment is (surprisingly) Keaton herself who completely overacts as Georgia. As an exploration of loss and grief, Hanging Up is little more than an empty platitude. Despite some good performances and a few funny scenes, it just fails to connect."
David Edwards

"Resident Hollywood matriarch Nora Ephron has been the driving force behind many mainstream hits and many strong female roles. Along with Hanging Up, Ephron co-scripted Silkwood, Heartburn, Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally, Michael, and You’ve Got Mail. She produced the latter three and directed the latter two plus Sleepless in Seattle. Ephron co-wrote and co-produced Hanging Up with her sister Delia, who wrote the novel in 1995. The Ephrons are undoubtedly a formidable family, and their film reflects that in all its glory. Nora Ephron depends on her favoured actress, Meg Ryan, to anchor the film, and Ryan - looking more like a scarecrow than ever here - delivers admirably. Despite her character’s incessant babble (which does tend to grate), Ryan appears to be the only one playing a character outside herself, rising to the challenge of a layered woman as cute and fragile as she is accomplished and strong. We’ve seen the wisecracker in Matthau, the female ubermench in Keaton, and the air-head in Kudrow time and again. But Ryan’s best efforts can’t elevate Hanging Up to the type of hit Ephron is accustomed to. However good the book may have been, the film is shallow, stereotyped, and just plain silly. There’s little empathy for these characters beyond Ryan’s Eve, and disjointed flashbacks make it difficult to connect the dots of past experiences. Only Kudrow’s tragic fashion sense is a reference to what decade it is. This is neither a particularly funny film nor a particularly tragic one. Only a few chuckles surface for Matthau’s barbs and for the huge black St Bernard that eats the phone. And Matthau’s downward spiral is expected rather than surprising. This does appear to be a film made by, for, and starring women. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But I can’t help but thinking women will enjoy it more."
Shannon J. Harvey

"Delia and Nora Ephron, along with two other sisters, were born with fairly large silver spoons in their mouths. Consequently, when Delia decided to re-work selected highs and lows from her privileged upbringing into a novel, she certainly could not have been lacking in suitable material. Unfortunately, if this screen adaptation of her book (courtesy of sister Nora) is anything to go by, Delia's pickings were truly slim. As evidenced by the marginally more bearable You've Got Mail, the Ephrons have a distinct penchant for placing their resolutely two-dimensional characters in a day-time soap opera world brimming with perpetual sunny skies and designer-clothed false modesty, but conspicuously devoid of anything approaching authentic emotion or motivation. If this, indeed, does resemble the kind of world the sisters, given their pedigree, did actually inhabit, it's hardly the stuff entertaining comedy dramas are made of. From an acting point of view (and in their defence), Ryan, Kudrow and director Keaton may well be at the mercy of the material at hand. But by shamelessly playing to its weaknesses, they also serve as the tripwire which effectively contributes to its derailment. And though the irascible Walter Matthau survives the mess with his reputation more or less intact, he, of course, can always blame his involvement on his advanced years. Ryan, Kudrow and Keaton, on the other hand, have absolutely no excuse. They just should have known better."
Leo Cameron

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 0
Unfavourable: 2
Mixed: 3

BEHIND THE SCENES

THE STARS

HANGING UP (M15+)
(US)

CAST: Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Adam Arkin, Duke Moosekian, Ann Bortolotti, Cloris Leachman, Maree Cheatham, Myndy Crist

PRODUCERS: Nora Ephron, Laurence Mark

DIRECTOR: Diane Keaton

SCRIPT: Delia and Nora Ephron (from the book by Delia Ephron)

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Howard Atheron

EDITOR: Julie Monroe

MUSIC: David Hirschfelder

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Waldemar Kalinowski

RUNNING TIME: 94 min

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: March 16, 2000

VIDEO RELEASE: October 11, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col TriStar Home Entertainment







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