Starting Out in the Evening

Rated 3.0

Frank Langella plays an old Jewish Manhattanite novelist receding into obscurity’s twilight, and Lauren Ambrose is the grad student yearning to restore his reputation. Together they wonder what sort of romance might come from mutual literary enthusiasm. Adapted from Brian Morton’s novel by director Andrew Wagner and Fred Parnes, this unabashedly bookish film might prompt disproportionate praise (or burial) from critics whose empathies and anxieties of literary obsolescence it tickles. In spite of Adam Gorgoni’s dreadfully mawkish score, it only narrowly avoids both movie-of-the-week melodrama and fringy chamber-play histrionics. The leads give humble, controlled performances, with strong support from Lili Taylor as the novelist’s biological-clock-addled daughter and Adrian Lester as her obdurate old flame.