It’s both a shame and a shock that Hanging Up is so bad. The talents involved in this are all so skilled that it really is puzzling as to how this turned out so poorly. I’m a huge fan of Diane Keaton, she’s one of those actors that I enjoy so much that I’ll basically watch anything she’s in. Even though I’m a big fan, I have to say that Keaton really dropped the ball here. She is not only one of the stars, she’s also the director here. If I were her I would’ve demanded a better script because woah, this script was in DIRE need of help.
It’s such a damn shame that a film directed by Diane Keaton that stars her, Meg Ryan, and Lisa Kudrow isn’t worthwhile. The idea of a drama about these three starring as sisters sounds like it would be a slam dunk. The story of these somewhat estranged sisters coming together because of their ailing father could be a worthwhile film, but this script just fails on nearly every level.
First of all, there is very little character development. We don’t really know anything about these women or how they relate to one another. All we are given is snippets of them in their careers and it’s all very surface level and stereotypical. The majority of the first half of Hanging Up is Ryan’s character running around for her dad and being stressed out. This script’s idea of storytelling and character building is showing us little short childhood flashbacks from when these women were little girls. It’s impossible to get a real feel for who these women are because the film literally never tells us their stories. You can’t really care about anything that happens because there’s zero emotional investment. Everything in this film rings hollow because there’s no cohesive story and these characters are basically complete strangers to us.
Ryan’s character is definitely the lead, we spend the vast majority of our time with her. Like I mentioned though, all she really does is run errands for her dad and her job and be stressed about it all. I think Hanging Up thinks we’re supposed to feel this connection to her because of a few random flashbacks of her as a little girl playing with her dad.
Speaking of the dad – he is just simply unbearable. Walter Matthau plays the father and while he does his best with the material, we never get a glimpse of what this man was like before he was sick and out of his mind. Once again, zero character development. All we see is him being either confused or viscously mean to those around him. I kept thinking are they expecting us to be all sad over this man being on the decline?
In order to elicit feeling about a character, you have to make them at least a little likeable or at least show that they were once a decent human. This man could have been good in his past but who’s to know? Hanging Up certainly doesn’t show us his past and give us any indication that he was ever a decent loving person. Kudrow’s character is pretty much a nothing role. All she really does is be ditzy and full of herself. But – no character is as CRIMINALLY underwritten as Keaton’s. We literally know nothing about her character other than she’s a selfish workaholic.
I’m surprised Keaton herself didn’t object to her own character being a victim of awful writing. She only really shows up in the final act and she proves to be a pretty unbearable person. She’s not even a character really, she’s just a lazily written stereotype. After almost an hour and a half of Hanging Up meandering around with these blank characters who we know nothing about, it suddenly at the very end wants us to feel invested in them as a family.
The last ten minutes of this is almost laughable because of how forced and empty the sentimentality is. How is it that after an hour and a half I still no absolutely nothing about this family or any of these characters. And again it’s such a shame because I wanted to know these women and I wanted to know about their strained relationships but Hanging Up doesn’t seem to care about that. The individual performances are pretty good, especially Meg Ryan, but it’s just all for not because of this shockingly inept script. Honestly, this needs to used in classes as an example of how NOT to write a script.
Hanging Up is truly an enigma. I don’t know how anyone involved in this thought this would pass muster. These are talented actresses with a lot to give but my goodness this script is so abysmal. This film just confused me and made me sad that it wasn’t a whole lot better.
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