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Saturday 21 August 2010

HANGING UP - Walter Matthau's Perfect Swansong

Angie, did l ever tell you about the time l got a gun from John Wayne?
Pat and I wrote a picture for him called Luck Runs Out.
Yeah, he was a very nice guy. They say that he had a very small pecker.... but that didn't keep him from being a real He-Man.

The trailer for 'Hanging Up' would have you believe that the film is a lightweight chick-flick; something for the girl's to sit around watching and laughing as Meg Ryan runs around comically whilst phoning her sisters. This is certainly an element of the movie, but it's only one element, and there is actually a lot more that the film has to offer.

I always think of 'Hanging Up' as a Nora Ephron film, but in fact; it was directed by Diane Keaton. Let's first begin by figuring out who did what:

Originally, it was a book, by Delia Ephron.
The screenplay is by Delia Ephron and Nora Ephron.
It's directed by Diane Keaton, who is also a star of the film.
It's produced by Nora Ephron.
And Executive Produced by Delia Ephron.

So who did what, exactly, and how? We'll never know. Anyway:

Eve (Meg Ryan) has to deal with her Father, Lou (Walter Matthau) who is in hospital, and dying. Her sister's Maddie (Lisa Kudrow) and Georgia (Diane Keaton) are too busy with their self-absorbed lives to deal with the fact their Father is coming to the end of his life. Everything is left to Eve to cope with.

Despite Meg Ryan's character taking the brunt of the responsibility, Lou is always asking after his other daughters; painfully unaware of how they are not there for him. To make things even more complex, Eve's husband is constantly insisting that she should have nothing to do with her Dad because he is a selfish drunk who's caused her a lot of pain.

The film is sad, yet hopeful, complex, yet simple, funny, yet sad again -- in fact; it's very real. It's something that a lot of people will relate to. Meg Ryan shines in the film in one of her best performances-- mixing the adorable comedic style she has made her own, along with some subtle, moving moments.

But the real magic comes from Walter Matthau. This film was released in 2000, the year he died-- which made and makes this film even more poignant. Matthau is absolutely delightful in the film --- playing a role that is hilariously funny, as he obsesses constantly over "John Wayne's pecker;" but is also tinged with sadness as it's clear the character is losing his memory. There are also some very emotional and dramatic scenes that show how capable Matthau was as an actor.

If you've ever had to take on a lot of responsibility when those around you won't take accountability for everything that's going on, then you'll relate to this film. Her sisters don't hear her, her Father keeps forgetting who she is, and her Mother doesn't want anything to do with the situation. This isn't a typical Meg Ryan film, and it isn't a typical Ephron film. It's something personal, a truthful roller-coaster about life, death, and siblings.

I strongly recommend it. There are not enough films like this.


  1. Hanging Up is one of the few Meg Ryan films I haven't seen but after reading your write up I'm going to try and watch it soon.
    I've admired Meg for many years and it sounds like this is one of her better performances.
    I'll let you know what I think of it.

  2. I have never read a novel that triggered so many emotions inside of me. I felt that someone had peeked into my life. I am the oldest of four sisters and I can only say that Ms. Ephron's family and mine are one in the same. I cannot tell you how emotionally vunerable I am at this time. I watched the movie last night and I cannot stop crying.

    1. I actually bought the DVD of Hanging Up after reading this post and finally got around to watching a couple of weeks ago!
      Like Canada it left me feeling very emotional.

      Have you edited this post Kid?
      I seem to remember when I first read it, you commented on Meg Ryan's performance in this film and in In The Land of Women as evidence that she was "getting better with age".
      Maybe my memory is playing tricks.

      Anyway, James Agee once wrote about Bing Crosby that seeing Bing walk across the screen was a wonderful thing to do -- to just watch him. I've always felt the same way about Meg Ryan.
      Back in 2007 it had been four years since I had seen her in a film, but watching her in "In the Land of Women" she walked across the screen more than a few times. It was enough.
      The film ended up going nowhere and that wasn’t going to change, so I treated the film as a tribute and a welcoming back to Meg Ryan.
      I still wish she’d make two films a year for the rest of her life!

    2. Hey Paul - haven't edited the post. Maybe I wrote that in another post!