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"Hanging Up"

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The title of the new Diane Keaton-directed film, Hanging Up, adapted from the Delia Ephron novel by the author and Nora Ephron, is metaphorical, but it's literal too: The main hung-up characters -- the three sisters, played by Keaton, Meg Ryan, and Lisa Kudrow, and their father, played by Walter Matthau -- spend a lot of time on the phone hanging up and calling up, and we're supposed to understand that this is how they best express their rages and frustrations and love. Ryan, in a decent, sweet performance, is the middle daughter, a professional events-planner, who bears the brunt of caring for her harebrained, hospitalized father in lieu of more support from Kudrow's soap-opera actress or Keaton's magazine-editor tycoon. Recriminations fly, flashbacks ensue, there's lots of laughing through tears and crying through laughs, but none of it has much more weight than medium-grade Neil Simon. Keaton made a marvelous feature-film-directing debut with Unstrung Heroes, and, when she isn't trying to clonk us, she still knows how to put across a sharp, quiet moment. (Best is when Cloris Leachman, playing the women's out-of-touch mother, explains to Ryan with bloodcurdling matter-of-factness that she had no use for being motherly.) But the film is "personal" in mostly impersonal ways. It's difficult to get worked up about the gravity of this sisterly contretemps when it happily resolves itself in a funny little food fight.


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