Hanging Up Movie Review

There's just something really screwy about a family like the Ephrons.

A pair of sisters (Nora and Delia) collectively control the purse strings of many a woman and hold they keys to the heart of the modern romantic through two movies: Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail. Nora Ephron (along with Meg Ryan), redefined delis and male-female interaction with 1989's When Harry Met Sally.... Both are the daughters of a screenwriting duo, children of The Industry, and have become higher-level powerbrokers than their parents ever were with a string of well publicized hits and soon forgotten misses that formed a winning streak that lasted up until now.

And why did their house of cards come toppling down? Because someone decided (that someone being Nora Ephron) that it might be a good idea to make a movie out of Delia Ephron's novel... a novel about (gasp) the daughters of a Hollywood screenwriting duo!

Yes, Hanging Up is a movie that smells of quasi-autobiographical kitsch hanging in the wings. And burdened down by this fact, Hanging Up never achieves that all-important low level of pretense that made You've Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle pass as entertainment.

Eve (Meg Ryan) is a caterer running a banquet while her father (Matthau) is dying. Georgia (Diane Keaton) is a Tina Brown-esque women's magazine editor who steals Eve's stuffing recipes for articles for The New York Times. Maddy (Lisa Kudrow) is a soap opera actress. All three are sisters who have to deal with their father's death and an impeding banquet.

Although I would really love to go on a rant about why it's not a good idea to write a book about your life and then make a movie out of it with your sister, I won't. I'll stick to the raw weaknesses of Hanging Up, which are as prolific as cellular phones in Sydney.

For a film written by two of Hollywood's top-gun screenwriters of this generation (and the children of some top-gun writers of last generation), Hanging Up is incredibly weak as far as character development goes. Walter Matthau's character raises more questions than answers, Eve is typecasted as the busy working mom, and the other two sisters are merely caricatures who never really have a conflict to them. Maddy is so forgettable that one might have done better to fill in her role by using stock footage from Friends. Georgia pins her Tina Brown pin-up but we never get any insight as to why she's the famous one (other than that she's the oldest). Flashbacks happen with little purpose, and the film staggers around like the drunken leach that Matthau plays. Since Hanging Up is so damn busy being the creme de la creme of character dramas, it neglects almost any comedy.

The result: Hanging Up is the picturesque butchered novel, lying bleeding on the editing room floor.

Of course, to give credit where credit is due, all of the acting is fine. Although the film wobbles left and right, it can still see straight enough to give us some entertainment along the path... just enough to get us through the film. Yet we never connect... we never make contact with anything dear to the characters, and, as Eve goes on her rampage around the house and takes all of the phones off the hook, we do not feel her triumph... we feel the urge to just hang up.

Hung up on.


Hanging Up Rating

" Weak "

Rating: PG-13, 2000


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