Hanging Up

Even though they are as different as night and day, there is a special bond that exists between a father and his daughter. As someone with a younger sister who has witnessed this first hand, I admit I was a little jealous of that bond.

hanging upSisters Delia and Nora Ephron shared that special connection with their father, and their experiences (based on Delia’s book) have been brought to the screen in “Hanging Up,” an engaging dramedy (drama-comedy for the uninformed) directed by Diane Keaton.

Delia and Nora have written a marvelous screenplay that deals honestly with real life situations, most perfectly realized by Keaton, who shows a real flair for getting the most mileage out of a situation and her fellow performers. Some moments seem a little exaggerated, but that’s the curse of translating intimate moments to the big screen.

For the most part, “Hanging Up” is a winning tale of three sisters who come together when their father falls gravely ill. Most of the film takes place in flashbacks, showing how three very loving yet diverse sisters come together in a moment of crisis.

Meg Ryan is sweet as Eve, the middle sister who rushes to her dad’s side when he bottoms out. Ryan always excels in roles like this, delivering an emotional performance that never seems fake. She helps us believe in Eve, whose devotion to her father begins to take its toll on her own life. Ryan is at her best when she attempts to juggle family, career and a dying father without totally losing it.

There’s a lot of distance between Eve and older sister Georgia (Keaton), a power hungry magazine owner (her “Georgia” magazine has amazing similarities to “George”). While Eve runs her party planning business from the West Coast, Georgia is trying to run the world on the East. Georgia enjoys her high stress life, which leaves her little time for family, including a dying father.

I love Keaton, especially when she plays women who are strong and know it. Watching her blossom in “The First Wives Club” was only a prelude to her dominant presence here. Keaton makes it easy for us to understand why Eve and her younger sister Maddy (Lisa Kudrow) are a little jealous of Georgia.

Kudrow, playing a soap opera actress who enjoys the best of everything, is always a welcome addition to any cast. Unlike her character on “Friends,” she’s the smart blonde who can do comedy without looking stupid. Kudrow has the lightest role in the film, yet she does so much with it. When she learns that her sisters have never seen her soap, he expressions are priceless.

All three come together to rally for their father, played by Walter Matthau. Matthau is excellent as a husband and father who took to drink when he realized that his career and marriage were over. Matthau has that lived-in look that works so well for the character. Like his character, you know Matthau has lived life. All of the acting lessons in the world can’t fake that.

Delia and Nora put the emphasis on the drama, although the film does has a fair amount of light moments. What I most appreciated about their script was that they never attempted to milk any of the situations, which would have been so easy to do. Instead, they look for the heart of the scene and work out from there. No matter how silly some of this seems, it always touches the heart.

My favorite moment has a delirious Matthau being wheeled into the hospital, ranting and raving about how small John Wayne’s penis supposedly was. “That’s why he liked guns so much.” It’s truly an inspired rift, delivered with such flamboyant gusto by Matthau. The more he carries on, the funnier it gets.

Keaton dots the landscape with some familiar faces, including an icy Cloris Leachman as the sister’s mother, who delivers a devastating blow to Eve, and Adam Arkin as Eve’s understanding husband. Ann Bortolotti touched my heart with her sincere portrayal as the mother of a hospital doctor.

The film looks great, especially the crisp images of Howard Atherton’s photography, while David Hirschfelder’s musical score goes from intimate to bombastic without missing a beat.

I would hate to define “Hanging Up” as a chick flick, because its message and emotions are universal. When things start to unravel, family is the glue that holds it all together. “Hanging Up” delivers on that theme with enough entertainment value to warrant a look.



Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow, Walter Matthau, Cloris Leachman, Adam Arkin in a film directed by Diane Keaton. Rated PG-13. 93 Minutes.


Comments are closed.