Directed/Written by: Richard LaGravenese
Starring: Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito, Queen Latifah, and Martin Donovan
Here's an entertaining film (with Richard LaGravenese making his debut
behind the helm), whose fine acting helps it rise above its shortcomings.
Like "How Stella Got Her Groove Back," the film centers on an intelligent
and feisty divorcee who suddenly has to reanalyze, readjust, and recognize
that you can, in fact, start over and feel good about yourself.
The film was also written by LaGravenese, who is actually one of Hollywood's
most respected screenwriters ("The Fisher King," "Unstrung Heroes," "Beloved,"
and "The Bridges of Madison County"). "Living Out Loud" is similar to
"Bridges," as the director is once again able to utilize a strong actress
(Holly Hunter) to portray the film's vigorous female lead. She is also
provided with some strong support in the form of the male lead, Danny
DeVito, and both actors work off each other extremely well. The film also
works mainly because LaGravenese knows his audience very well. He writes
sincere dramas starring strong, established women that audiences can connect
to, and it's no different here.
Judith (Hunter) is a nurse in her forties who's just been handed her
walking papers by a filthy rich doctor/husband after 16 years of marriage.
This is a woman who really cherished the institute of marriage and felt
safe by it. She's been mentally and spiritually violated by her husband's
pathetic desertion. Luckily, she doesn't hit the bottle or even contemplate
suicide, but she's definitely hit rock bottom emotionally as she spends
her lonely week nights staring into space at a local jazz club.
Judith's in obvious pain, but she can't open up or connect to anyone
since no one out there can possibly understand what she's going through
-- that is until she gets to know Pat (DeVito), the doorman at the apartment
building where she lives. Pat knows all about dead end scenarios. This
sweet and sensitive lug's marriage is also history, he's got a serious
gambling problem, and worst of all, his daughter passed away after a long-term
illness. If Pat can't connect with her, no one can, and that's exactly
what he does as the two help each other move on and persevere with their
Our headliner struggles not only with her feelings for Pat, but believing
that she is still sexy. She is at a point in her life that she wants to
experience romance again -- that spark with the right person. She just
isn't ready to settle down with a "good listener;" she wants to be swept
off her feet again. Even though the possibility exists that this may never
happen again, she feels that she must give it her best shot, proving to
herself that she's still attractive and important enough (despite her
midlife crisis type of attitude) to elicit some responses. In the process,
she discovers who she is and what is important to her in her life.
Although the fabulous Hunter, with her feisty and kooky performance,
is the main reason to check out this film on video, it also gathers its
strength from the tender relationship between Judith and Pat, who are
able to comfort each other without getting hot and heavy under the sheets.
The film shows that Judith can be satisfied by a "Three's Company" type
of relationship. Just as appealing, and backing up Hunter nicely, is DeVito
(who also produced the film) as Judith's steady, platonic partner. Even
though the two do not get romantically involved, they still have plenty
of chemistry and do a great job of satisfying each other's needs.
The film is not just a realization piece, but a quirky comedy using
the comedic skills of the two pros to full effect. It's hilarious seeing
Judith act out her fantasies in "Ally McBeal" type fashion. They are usually
daydreams of what she would actually say or do if she had the guts. They
may only be dreams, but they're outrageous all the same. Hunter's Judith
is a funny (and touching) creation. She smokes like a chimney, experiments
with all kinds of illegal substances, and isn't afraid to get a good rubdown
from the local boy toy. She may act crazy at times, but what is a middle-aged
woman -- who realizes that she didn't really know the man she loved for
16 years -- supposed to act like?
The supporting cast is also solid, but, unfortunately, hardly used.
Martin Donovan (Judith's wealthy husband) is effective in his brief outing
as the film's snake in the grass. Just as effective, in an even smaller
role, is singer/actress Queen Latifah, who plays the classy singer at
the club Judith likes to hang out at. She first ditches the divorcee,
but takes an eventual liking to her forming an unusual relationship.
The ending, just as the majority of the film, is not Tinseltown sugar-coated.
The film instead takes a more realistic (and sometimes disheartening)
look at dating and starting over with some engaging and honest dialogue
between the characters.
Richard LaGravenese's intelligent film on love and friendship is based
on Anton Chekhov's short stories "The Kiss" and "Misery." It's a warm
and funny look at how one woman, after a dramatic and heartbreaking phase
in her life, convinces herself to "push on" and "live life" while (thanks
to the empathic friendship of one man) finding a way to love herself again.