Film » Screens

Disconnect

A busy signal would have been preferable to Hanging Up.

by

comment
Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow: not on the phone for once.
  • Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow: not on the phone for once.
Even at just 92 minutes, this film feels endless. Intended as a humorous, heartwarming take on dysfunctional family relationships, Hanging Up doesn't work as comedy or drama or anything in between. Given its wealth of talent -- director and co-star Diane Keaton, writers Delia and Nora Ephron, and actresses Meg Ryan and Lisa Kudrow -- it proves surprisingly flat and predictable.

Eve Mozell (Ryan) is a semiresponsible adult with a propensity for plowing into other people's cars while talking on her cell phone. (Cell phones are ubiquitous in this film's world.) A wife and mother who runs an efficient household and her own business as a party planner, Eve is kindhearted and compassionate, but also prone to guilt, anxiety, and self-doubt. And if just getting through the day weren't taxing enough, she bears the added burden of serving as sole emotional support and confessor for her aged father Lou (Walter Matthau), a selfish, spoiled lush.

Eve's sisters have almost nothing to do with their father and are only too happy to leave that task to their peacemaker middle sibling. Older sister Georgia (Keaton) is a high-powered, self-absorbed magazine publisher. Maddy (Kudrow) is a clueless, barely successful soap opera star.

The story opens with Eve taking her father to the hospital for some tests. Thereafter, every time the phone rings, Eve panics, convinced it's the hospital calling to tell her he's dead. The first time she reacts this way is acceptable, if predictable, but the subsequent six times are just plain annoying.

Annoying is the nicest adjective that could be leveled at Lou. The Ephron sisters may have intended him as a lovable old coot, but he is anything but. Although flashbacks suggest he was an involved, devoted father to Eve, it's difficult to reconcile that image with his later onscreen behavior. Eve's relationship with her sisters -- and with herself -- is as important as her relationship with her father and, not surprisingly, the three are intertwined. But while sibling rivalry, low self-esteem, and guilt and conflict over one's parents are easy for just about everyone to identify with, artifice overwhelms reality here. Not even Ryan, always a personable presence onscreen, makes us care.

Much of Hanging Up takes place on the telephone, an instrument that allows individuals to keep a safe distance from one another at the same time that it permits people to maintain a connection. Increasingly, we live in a cell phone culture, but the film seems far more interested in milking laughs from repeated shots of the sisters making or answering phone calls than from anything substantive.

Tags

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Cleveland Scene. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Cleveland Scene, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at news@clevescene.com.

Cleveland Scene works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Cleveland and beyond.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Cleveland's true free press free.