PUBLISHED IN THE LONG ISLAND VOICE October 29 - November 4, 1998
Loss is one of life's most emotionally crippling afflictions.
It strikes when we least expect it, a devastating spear that shatters our defences, splits the self-confident aura we've taken a lifetime to nurture, and exposes the cauldron of vulnerability constantly seething beneath our emaciated veneers.
And even when we feel we're at the brink of full convalescence, fortified by the inner strength we think we're projecting and perfecting, a seemingly insignifcant unassuming crisis shakes our resolve and the whole house of cards comes crashing down.
Eventually, however, we do recover, and it's the beauty of Richard La Gravenese's Living Out Loud that the writer and director of The Fisher King and Bridges Of Madison County so portrays the emotional reconnaissance of two temporarily wayward souls so humanely.
Judith Nelson (divinely portrayed by Holly Hunter) is a physician's wife who has been jilted by her philandering husband. Left alone in her posh East Side penthouse, Nelson shunts aside her anger and sorrow as she struggles to cope with her new freedom, working as a private nurse by day and frequenting a nightclub where she escapes through the torch singing of Liz Bailey (Queen Latifah).
As with anyone going through emotional upheaval, Nelson's moods and clarity change in the blink of an eye. When the pregnant mistress of her husband pleads Nelson for forgiveness prior to a divorce hearing, Nelson snaps "You sound so ideal. Can I fuck you?"
On the other side of town, Pat (a sensitive Danny DeVito, who also produced the film) is a happy-go-lucky, heart-of-gold schmuck who is losing his daughter to cancer. His depression has sent him into a tailspin of gambling, and the debts are mounting. Pat is a man who is too proud to tell his poker buddies that he works as an elevator operator in Nelson's apartment or accept an offer for part-time work in his brother's tavern.
Judith and Pat's lives intertwine unexpectedly one night when Judith has a surprise romantic encounter with a stranger (Elias Koteas) at the club.
Buoyed by the promise of romance, she comforts Pat and a friendship ensues.
Living Out Loud is a triumphant film about transition, and the roles people often assume out of desperation and compassion. La Gravenese shows an adept hand with humor ( although his meteor shower of fantasy sequences in the first ten minutes are a tad overwhelming) and the use of symbolism (the scene where Judith finds herself is poignant).
However, it's the notion that redemption can be found in the most unexpected place that gives Living Out Loud its true power.
Directed by Richard La Gravenese. A New Line Cinema release. Opens October 30.
-- Nick Krewen
THANKS: Beth Rimmels, Beth Greenfield
© 1998, 1999 Nick Krewen
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