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" meg ryan is irresistible in the comedy that celebrates sisterhood ! , "
screams the television ads for " hanging up , " disastrously written by real-life sisters delia and nora ephron and sloppily directed by diane keaton .
make me laugh again !
not only is " hanging up " misadvertised , since the film wholeheartedly focuses on middle sister meg ryan and gives her two co-stars , lisa kudrow and diane keaton , little more than extended cameos , but they don't actually come together until the final ten to fifteen minutes .
and we are supposed to believe their strong bond , and smile in the last scene when they rekindle their rocky relationship , despite them being apart for the majority of the running time ?
excuse me , again , while i almost bust a gut at that truly delusional notion .
eve marks ( meg ryan ) is the middle mozzell sister , still living in the california town where she grew up , and with a husband ( adam arkin ) and pre-teen son ( jesse james ) .
her elderly , wisecracking father , lou ( walter matthau , in his brightest performance in years ) has just recently been put into the hospital , in the final stages of what i assume is alzheimer's ( even though the film never enlightens us on exactly what is wrong with him ) .
while eve's relationship with her mother ( cloris leachman ) is nearly nonexistent , since she ran out on lou and her children years ago , she has had her fair share of up's and down's with lou , who used to be an alcoholic .
her older sister is georgia ( diane keaton ) , an editor for the self-titled magazine , " georgia , " while maddy ( lisa kudrow ) is the youngest , a soap opera actress .
interestingly , their professions are given , but we not once ever see them working at their jobs , or , for that matter , learn much of anything about them .
maddy , georgia , and eve do not see each other much anymore , their adult lives gradually causing them to drift apart , but they do manage to consistently talk on the phone to one another .
and they talk .
and talk .
and talk . . .
in fact , the telephone is the major star of the film , even more so than ryan , as it appears in virtually every scene of this interminable 92-minute catastrophe that feels like its three hours long .
if you are able to get through the opening half-hour , in which phones ring so much you feel like jumping through the screen and taking a sledgehammer to them , you will surely survive the rest .
the question is , who would want to subject themselves to this resolutely irritating , self-involved pat-on-the-back ?
how could a comedy-drama that has the star-power of meg ryan , lisa kudrow , and diane keaton be so very bad in so many different ways ?
issues from the past involving the possible jealousy each has had for one of the others is fleetingly brought up , but the film isn't mature enough to deal with such a thing in a thoughtful manner , and since we learn next to nothing about their childhood , it is a lost cause that comes off as nothing more than an afterthought .
also , it is expected that the viewer quickly catch on to the tricky dynamic that the three sisters have with one another , but no dynamic metamorphosizes .
and when they do reunite in the finale , their whole consanguinity is reduced to a repulsively annoying three-minute scene in which they argue like little children .
you can see the impending death coming a mile away , and it conveniently occurs in the next scene , so that the three can quickly come to terms with themselves , and with each other .
you think to yourself : " the only thing left for them to do is have a playful food-fight , " and like clockwork , it also occurs by the end credits .
meg ryan is a versatile actress ( look no further than 1998's " hurlyburly " or 1994's " when a man loves a woman " ) , despite her various detractors who stubbornly believe all she can do is romantic comedies .
with " hanging up , " the only thing she needs to do is completely sever her filmmaking ties with nora ephron , a writer/director/hack who shouldn't be allowed to work in hollywood again after this big-budget , high-profile debacle .
even if she knew what she was making was not exactly up to par in the quality department , she nonetheless is very good , and the two scenes that work , flashbacks to christmas 1988 , when she had a heartbreaking run-in with her mother , and to halloween 1993 , when lou crashed her son's birthday party in a drunken stupor , are effective because of the realism ryan brings to the situations .
diane keaton , as georgia , is better as an actress than a director here , but that is a wildly feeble compliment .
what is more than a little far-fetched is that keaton is distinctly older than ryan and kudrow , although in the very brief glimpses we get at them as children , she is no more than five years ryan's senior .
yeah , right .
lastly , poor lisa kudrow has been wasted once again in a big-screen venture , after her even more thin role in 1999's " analyze this . "
kudrow isn't given enough time to create a full personality with maddy , so it isn't her fault she doesn't register until a few quiet moments sprinkled throughout where she is actually blessed with being given dialogue .
if anything , though , kudrow is a real talent , and i anxiously await the next time she is given a role more deserving of her time , as in her brilliantly nuanced , oscar-caliber work in 1998's " the opposite of sex . "
if you are a fan of kudrow's ( and who isn't ? ) , do yourself a favor and rent this gem that puts more good use to kudrow in sixty seconds than " hanging up " does in its entirety .
as eve's hardworking husband , adam arkin is , predictably , squandered with a role that gives him next to nothing to do , until a subplot reveals itself midway through , only to never be mentioned again .
cloris leachman , as with ryan and matthau , makes a small , but noticeable impression with her , albeit , very brief appearance , while edie mcclurg , as a rosy-cheeked woman lou had an affair with in the christmas 1988 flashback , manages one of the few laughs in this otherwise joyless production .
nearly all the emotions displayed within " hanging up " are patently manufactured , and despite the movie wanting the viewer to care about the characters , aside from eve , why would you want to when they are all spoiled brats ?
if , for some bizarre , " twilight zone " -type of reason , you find yourself in a movie theater showing this film , my suggestion would be to hang up on it before the opening credits are over .
saying it is a waste of time is an understatement of epic proportions .
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