Saturday, November 24, 2007

Sex, Power and Aging in the Movies

This weekend, a fine actor named Frank Langella is being seen in a new film, "Starting Out in the Evening," which is getting good reviews in the New York Times, Rolling Stone and points between.

In it, Langella plays a writer and was directed by Andrew Wagner, a college classmate of one of my sons. Thirty years ago, Langella played a writer in "Diary of a Mad Housewife," directed by a friend of mine, Frank Perry, from a script by his wife, Eleanor.

In both movies, the writer ends up in bed with complicated women, as a self-centered seducer in "Diary" and as the vulnerable seduced in "Starting Out."

In the three decades between, as age diminished Langella's sexual power on the screen, it transformed him into a powerhouse of an actor in roles from Dracula and Sherlock Holmes to the evil White House chief of staff in "Dave."

Along the way, in "Eddie," he played the owner of the New York Knicks who hires Whoopi Goldberg to coach the team and, in real life, they lived together for a time as a couple that conjures up marvelous visions of energy and elegance.

Next year, at 70, he will be seen as the famous Unindicted Co-conspirator in "Frost/Nixon," Ron Howard's film of the Broadway play for which Langella won a Tony.

Aging sucks, but it can have its compensations.

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