Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Movie Review - Hanging Up

Hanging Up is one of those movies I’d intended to see when it was out in the cinema (mainly because I like all of the main actresses and of course how could anyone not like Walter Matthau?!?) but never got round to. From the trailer it had looked to be more of a comedy than it actually is, but that’s not why I’ve given it such a low rating.

Hanging Up is the story of Eve (Meg Ryan), whose family consistently tie her up in knots. Her father (Walter Matthau) is described in the blurb as “cranky” – but in reality he’s more likely suffering from senile dementia (at least that’s how it seemed to me), is being put into a Nursing Home (I think – it may be a hospital) but resisting it, and making long phone calls to her about random subject, mostly centring around John Wayne. Her two sisters, Georgia (Diane Keaton) and Maddy (Lisa Kudrow) are always expecting favours from her without ever doing anything in return. Her husband is extremely understanding of the way Eve keeps crashing her car but has to go away on a long business trip since the writers obviously couldn’t think of anything to do with him. Eve barely notices him when he’s there and then suddenly when he’s got to go, she’s all over him.

And it just gets worse. Eve crashes into the Doctor who works at the Nursing Home. At her work she is pushed into convincing Georgia to make a speech for them at a conference. Maddy comes to visit and leaves her dog behind for Eve to look after. Eve knows she needs to stop letting people walk all over her but doesn’t know how.

The trouble is, as far as the film itself goes, it also gets worse. None of the characters even get to the two-dimensional stage – Maddy is the child that never grew up, Geogia is the successful career woman and too egocentric to notice any-one or anything else, Eve is the one who always gives others a shoulder to cry on and does all the work, and everyone ignores her. There is no second layer to anyone’s character.

The pacing is awful too. We are subjected to over an hour of buildup that contains not the slightest trace of suspense, and at the end we’re given a sad-happy-sad ending and actually expected to care? I had some slight sympathy for Eve (though I have to say that Ryan’s performance, though not actually bad, was not as good as in her more usual role in romantic comedies), but who cared what happened to the other characters? If they really were as shallow as they were portrayed, they weren’t even real people by any definition I know of.

The film did have one saving grace, however, to prevent it from falling into the category of films so appallingly bad that they only get a single star. That wasn’t even the humour (admittedly there were one or two pretty funny moments), but the flashback scenes. They showed events from Eve’s life that coloured who she became and how she viewed her family members. It almost seemed as if these were directed by a different person than the Director of the rest of the film – they contained passion and even managed to make me care – especially the scene that showed why Eve’s husband disliked her father so much. It’s just a pity that the rest of the film didn’t have that same emotional impact.

Everything just seemed to contrived that I didn’t at any point feel involved or interested in what was going to happen to the characters next – it was obvious most of the time anyway. The actresses weren’t given much to go on and Mattau was good in his role, I guess. It’s rated 15 and I suppose that’s about right, it didn’t seem as bad as many 15-rated films I’ve seen though.

This could have been a really good film but failed miserably. Even if you’re a fan of Ryan, Keaton, Kudrow, and Mattau, I would advise you to avoid Hanging Up. At the end of the day its just a cliché-ridden excuse for a tearjerker – and it doesn’t even work on that score.

----------

If you want a genuinely emotional film, Pay It Forward, starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt, and Hayley Joel Osmet is a much better bet. (I know not everyone liked it, but I did!)

For Meg Ryan in her more usual role, try French Kiss, also starring Kevin Kline.

No comments: