the ads make " hanging up " seem like an upbeat comedy about a rascally father and his three daughters .
anyone who went to the movie expecting that left disappointed .
all of the movie's funny scenes were included in the ad .
so what do we get ?
eve marks ( meg ryan ) just put her father lou mozell ( walter matthau ) into a hospital .
once upon a time , lou was a hollywood screenwriter who collaborated with his now-estranged wife .
his one great moment in life was writing a film for john wayne , who gave him a giant bullet-shaped trophy .
now lou is senile and deteriorating rapidly .
eve tries to convince her sisters georgia ( diane keaton ) and maddy ( lisa kudrow ) that their father is dying and needs them .
both are slow to show concern .
so devoted eve stands vigil over her father , who constantly asks for his favorite daughter georgia , while running her own business ( planning special events ) and caring for her son ( jesse james ) .
( some comic relief comes when maddy also drops off her ailing st . bernard for eve to care for . )
the tension builds until all three sisters are finally in one room at one of eve's events where georgia is the keynote speaker .
there's a superficial resemblance to shakespeare's " king lear " ( senile king with three daughters : one devoted saint and two selfish bitches ) , but the material is apparently drawn from life .
sister screenwriters delia and nora ephron had parents who were a successful hollywood writing team .
henry and phoebe ephron collaborated on 17 screenplays , including " desk set " and " there's no business like show business . "
( delia's novel , the basis for the film , is dedicated to henry ) .
surprisingly , the script is as thin as an anorexic's wet dream .
the virtue of a semi-autobiographical project would seem to be the wealth of material available .
yet , the ephrons provide only the barest minimum of information about their characters .
also , the spaces they inhabit seem artificial .
eve lives in a house that looks like a magazine layout ; no matter how put-upon she is , we can't feel sorry for anyone whose house is so pristine on any given day .
georgia is a famous magazine editor , and in her brief scenes while she chats on a cell phone with eve seem like the photo spread for a profile .
when we first meet maddy , she's fishing at a picturesque mountain stream .
i expected to see the credit " cinematography by 'vanity fair . ' "
and , yes , diane keaton is literally old enough to be lisa kudrow's mother .
to her credit , though , she looks young enough to pull it off .
the one redeeming aspect of " hanging up " is that , at its core , is a truth about siblings .
there's always one on which everyone else in the family relies , freeing the others to be selfish and emotionally distant .
my wife is the reliable child in her family ; for better or worse , my brother has the role in mine .
( being selfish and emotionally distant may not be fulfilling , but it is a lot less work ) .
if you have nothing better to do than watch this movie , look for a powerful cameo by cloris leachman as the sisters' mother pat .
in a devastating scene , eve discovers that her mother doesn't love her .
although leachman is best known for comedies like " young frankenstein " and " the mary tyler moore show , " her performance here reminded me of the considerable dramatic talent she displayed in " the last picture show . "
bottom line : everyone involved has lived in hollywood so long they don't recognize real life anymore .