Bad Hair Day 

Hanging Up (PG-13)
Columbia Pictures

I'd like to think that as I've gotten older, my haircuts have gotten better. My sixth grade Farah Fawcett wings gave way to frizzy, waist-length locks which in turn ceded to a curly mop, finally replaced by an easy-to-care-for cut.

Unfortunately for Meg Ryan in Hanging Up, her character's aging is marked by a series of increasingly terrible hair blunders, from straight and long to sloppy bangs to a final cut that looks like she attacked herself with nail scissors. While a discussion of haircuts may seem a better subject for a Seventeen style guide than for the Indy film review, the hair problem is emblematic of the underlying flaw of Hanging Up -- real characterization is replaced by a series of facile, surface traits, and real issues are swapped for a fluffy, feel-good gloss.

Despite the weak script, Meg Ryan, and her co-stars Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow do their level best to portray three sisters whose father Lou (Walter Matthau) is succumbing to illness and senility. Lou is hospitalized, and it is up to Eve (Ryan), the middle daughter, to care for him. Her older sister Georgia (Keaton), is a high-powered magazine publisher with no time for anything but business; her younger sister Maddy (Kudrow) is a self-absorbed daytime soap opera actress. Lots of simmering family resentments, lots of water under the bridge.

You'd think that there was plenty of material here for a moving story, but writers Delia and Nora Ephron botch it again and again. The film, based on the novel by Delia, has a strange, mechanical feel to it, as if the writers were just learning screen craft from a text-book: a character says something, another character begins to stare off into space, there's a little musical interlude and, voila, here you are in an extended flashback that tries to explain what had just happened in real time. Then, after the little explanation has ended, we're taken back into the main action.

Since we're not given any authentic sense of aging or growth, we have to be cued that we're time traveling. Hence the haircuts -- if it is bangs it must be the '80s, and so on.

It is a pity that the Ephron sisters let themselves get so wrapped up in this silliness, since occasionally the movie has some moving moments, like when a drunken Lou violently interrupts his grandson's Halloween birthday party. But unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and silliness is allowed to prevail over a film of real potential.

-- Andrea Lucard


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