Imagine King Lear as a contemporary, more comic than tragic "woman's picture," with Meg Ryan as Cordelia, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow as her evil sisters Goneril and Regan, and Walter Matthau as their dying father. This may not be what director Keaton and writers Nora and Delia Ephron had in mind when they conceived Hanging Up, a movie so hackneyed and so condescending to its potential audience (adult women) that even Lifetime might hesitate before running it. Still, the Lear parallel gives you something to think about.

The film is in fact based on Delia Ephron's 1995 roman à clef, in which the author emerges as the only member of the family with recognizable human emotions. It would be stretching a point to attribute human emotion to Ryan, who has never been so cloying nor so perfectly coiffed as she is here. Kudrow and Keaton are lucky in that they have few scenes, though as director, Keaton has to answer for every last mawkish moment. While the good sister is constantly at her father's beck and call, the bad sisters are just too busy with their careers to bother with him until he's in a coma. This is the way successful professionals like Keaton and the Ephrons try to guilt-trip other women who might want to follow in their footsteps. Keaton's character, by the way, is such a blatant caricature of Grace Mirabella that she might have grounds to sue.

World of Wonder Boys: Downey and Douglas on campus
photo: Frank Connor
World of Wonder Boys: Downey and Douglas on campus


Wonder Boys
Directed by Curtis Hanson
Written by Steve Kloves from the book by Michael Chabon
A Paramount release

Hanging Up
Directed by Diane Keaton
Written by Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron
A Columbia Pictures release

The Closer You Get
Directed by Aileen Ritchie
Written by William Ivory
A Fox Searchlight release Opens February 25

Just as clichéd and condescending to its audience (in this case, the American viewers who flocked to The Full Monty and Waking Ned Devine), The Closer You Get is set in a tiny Irish seaside town whose male inhabitants, blind to the attractive women in their midst, advertise for mates in a Florida newspaper. The most deluded among them is played by Ian Hart, who gives this wretched vehicle his all—going so far as to peroxide his hair and strut around in mail-order Carnaby Street attire. I can't fault Hart for trying; I just wish someone would give him the great role he deserves.

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