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Living Out Loud

movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Living Out Loud

Starring: Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito
Director: Richard LaGravenese
Rated: R
RunTime: 102 Minutes
Release Date: October 1998
Genres: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Review by MrBrown
3 stars out of 4

All signs seem to indicate that New Line is at a loss as to how to market _Living_Out_Loud_: the poster is simply three candid headshots of the stars (Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, and Queen Latifah) unimaginatively arranged on a black background, and the dull trailer left every audience I've seen it with making audible groans. It's a shame, for hot Hollywood scribe Richard LaGravenese's directorial debut is a nice surprise, a refreshingly adult romantic comedy-drama.

When I say "adult," I don't mean as in raunchy but as in mature--in attitude and characters. The central pair are two lonely, divorced people north of 40. Judith (Hunter) has lost all direction and meaning in life after her successful surgeon husband (Martin Donovan) left her for a thirtysomething (Tamlyn Tomita); she drinks heavily, spending most of her days in her apartment and her nights listening to her favorite crooner Liz Bailey (Latifah, who does her own singing) perform at a jazz club. Pat (DeVito)'s marriage, already troubled by his gambling, was dealt a fatal blow when his daughter succumbed to cancer.

There's a lyric in a key song in the musical _Rent_ that goes, "What was it about that night?/Connection in an isolating age." Such a connection in such a night is the pivotal event in _Living_Out_Loud_, but it's not between the pair one would expect. One night at the club, Judith receives a passionate kiss from a mysterious stranger (Elias Koteas), which shakes her out of her malaise. Her renewed sense of romantic hope leads her to engage in idle conversation with her posh building's doorman, Pat, and gradually their talk grows deeper--eventually resulting in the profoundly touching connection between Judith and Pat.

There is not much plot in _Living_Out_Loud_, but LaGravenese's main concern here are, rather, the characters and their relationships, and he succeeds in creating genuine, recognizably human characters that are sympathetic to the audience. This is not to say that they are incredibly wholesome; they are generally good but flawed individuals, especially in the case of Judith, who is often angry and more than a little self-centered. These characters connect with the viewer because the viewer can see a little of themselves in everyone: bitter Judith, broken Pat, and the (mostly) sensible Liz.

The most well-rounded character is, of course, Judith, and the film's title is what she must learn to do: live "out loud" and not in her head. LaGravenese delves into _Ally_McBeal_ territory by depicting Judith's imaginings on screen, and the results, for the most part, are effective, generating some of the film's best laughs. (Especially memorable is one where she jumps from her bedroom window to her death, which is then immediately reported on the news.) But LaGravenese sometimes doesn't know when to quit. A delightful dance floor epiphany, with Judith and other dancers suddenly breaking into synchronized, choreographed moves, is marred by its heavyhanded, unsubtly symbolic conclusion where she literally embraces her younger self.

LaGravenese makes up for his occasional missteps (the origins of Judith and Liz's friendship is unconvincing) with his musical choices. George Fenton composed the silky score, which effectively extends the mellow jazz/R&B sounds beyond the walls of the nightclub. The smooth, soothing soundtrack could not be a better fit for the laid-back, low-key, unforced appeal of _Living_Out_Loud_.

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