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TO BE PERFECTLY FRANK


There's already been a lot of Oscar buzz for George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe, but scarcely a whisper about Frank Langella. That situation has suddenly changed with the opening of "Starting Out in the Evening." If the members of the Academy fail to nominate Langella for his performance as a tormented novelistin this dandy sleeper, they'll simply have to make up for their goof next year, when he'll be seen as a spectacularly tormented U.S. president in "Frost/Nixon." Check out the details on both films below. --
GUY FLATLEY

 

STARTING OUT IN THE EVENING: Frank Langella, Lauren Ambrose, Lili Taylor, Adrian Lester, Jessica Bennett, Anitha Gandhi, Jeff McCarthy, Sean T. Krishnan, Karl Bury (Directed by Andrew Wagner; Written by Andrew Wagner and Fred Parnes; Roadside Attractions) Once, Leonard Schiller (Frank Langella) was a celebrated writer, basking in the praise lavished on his four novels by New York’s most sophisticated critics. But decades have passed, Leonard’s work is out of print, and he has yet to produce a fifth novel, even though he dutifully clocks in at his typewriter on a daily basis. Adding to his misery is the fact that he has lost the wife he so intensely loved and has himself suffered a major heart attack. Plus, he is scarcely recognized when attending the kind of literary events at which he was formerly the center of attention. Then along comes Heather Wolfe (Lauren Ambrose), an intellectually sharp, articulate and quirkily attractive blonde graduate student. She’s planning to write her thesis about Leonard and his novels and is hurt, hurt, hurt when the author refuses to grant her request for a series of interviews, pointing out that he must devote his time and energy to his new book. Eventually, the subtly aggressive young woman wears him down, loosens him up, critiques his writing and seductively smears honey on his forehead in the intimacy of his Manhattan apartment. In the end, might this be a case of All About Heather? (For an immediate answer to that question, pick up a copy of Brian Morton's widely praised novel from which this film was adapted.) Lili Taylor also stars as Leonard's not especially book-oriented daughter, a woman who cannot persuade her boyfriend (Adrian Lester) to impregnate her, even though her biological clock is ticking in a big way. To read about other new movies based on books, click here. Now Playing

FROST/NIXON: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Matthew Macfadyen, Oliver Platt, Patty McCormack, Toby Jones, Jenn Gotzon, Rebecca Hall (Directed by Ron Howard; Written by Peter Morgan; Universal) Richard Nixon may be the second worst president the American public ever had to endure. In 1977--three years after bidding a mortifying adieu to the White House, thereby avoiding impeachment because of the Watergate scandal--he agreed to appear in a series of televised conversations with British media giant David Frost. Nixon learned too late that he should have played harder to get; as it turned out, Frost stripped him bare, exposing his soul for anyone who owned a television set to see. Fortunately, Peter Morgan, author of the screenplay for “The Queen,” decided to explore the confrontation between these two strong-willed men in dramatic terms. The resulting play was a triumph in London and on Broadway. Best of all, director Ron Howard had the smarts to nail Frank Langella and Michael Sheen, the duo who brought Nixon and Frost to riveting life on stage (Langella won a Best Actor Tony for his take on Tricky Dicky). An unexpected bonus: Patty McCormack, the kid who received an Oscar nomination for her playing of the title role in the 1956 flick "The Bad Seed," plays the long-suffering Pat Nixon this time out. To read about other new movies based on plays, click here. Opening date to be announced


For details on the upcoming films of other favorites, click here and browse the alphabetical INDEX OF STAR TURNS.