ONCE UPON A TIME, cell phone jokes elicited a snicker here and there. Ditto the clich鳠about Seattle and espresso stands every 100 feet. But as Morrissey once moaned, that joke isn't funny anymore. Unfortunately, Nora and Delia Ephron haven't attained Mozzer's ironic wit. Instead they keep cranking out enough estrogen flicks to keep Meg Ryan in bad, overpriced bleach jobs till she's six feet under (think You've Got Mail, Sleepless in Seattle, and When Harry Met Sally). They still get a hoot out of Southern Californians wrecking their SUVs while yapping on Nokias. That this is one of Hanging Up's very first scenes immediately signals how stale the Ephron formulas have become.
directed by Diane Keaton with Diane Keaton, Lisa Kudrow,and Meg Ryan opens February 18 at Guild 45th,Pacific Place, Oak Tree, and other
Though directed by Diane Keaton (Heaven, Unstrung Heroes), the limp-wristed Ephron sheen is all over this piss-poor star vehicle. What could've been one of the first Hollywood films to honestly address the trauma of seeing a robust parent collapse into senility and dementia becomes merely another excuse for Meg Ryan to look cute. Ryan takes on yet another role as a pert blonde martyr, playing Eve, the beleaguered, overlooked middle sister of three—just like the Bradys! Older sibling Georgia (Keaton) and baby sis Maddy (Lisa Kudrow, nowhere near her Friends charisma) are out for seltzer when it comes to taking care of their aging pop (an embarrassingly hollow Walter Matthau). So Eve, a busy LA event planner, must juggle her family, her job, and her father's illness all alone. Boo-fucking-hoo.
The most human moment in Hanging Up comes when the three sisters gather at the hospital, where their father has just had a stroke. As slick New Yorker Georgia starts to sob, Maddy barks, "I can't believe you're making this about you!" It's exactly the warning the filmmakers should have heeded. By centering the movie on poor little Eve—a huge mistake, given Ryan's preoccupation with her Courtney Love haircut and looking buff in a tank top—they forgo any potential sense of collective family involvement in a dismissive and irritating fashion. Hang up on this sales call.