Hanging Up

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Hanging Up

The latest feature from the increasingly questionable screenwriting sister act of Delia and Nora Ephron, Hanging Up is less an affront to humanity than the team's inexcusable You've Got Mail, perhaps because director Diane Keaton seems to have some awareness of how human beings actually act and feel. It's a welcome relief from director Nora Ephron's catalog-clipping approach to filmmaking, but hardly enough to transcend the limitations of the material, which began as a novel by her sister. Keaton and Lisa Kudrow both appear in supporting roles behind Ephron favorite Meg Ryan, together playing sisters who have differing one-dimensional reactions to seriously ailing father Walter Matthau: Soap star Kudrow denies anything is wrong, while Keaton remains too busy running a Vogue-ish magazine to care, leaving Ryan to fret endlessly over the situation. More a drama than a comedy, and thus more a vehicle for Ryan the decent actress than Ryan the insufferably cutesy comedienne, Hanging Up skates by well enough in select scenes. But what's worthwhile about it falls victim to what can only be called Ephronisms: one-liners that would make Neil Simon (or Henny Youngman) blush, an obsessive attention to tasteful interior decoration and cute outfits, frustrating shallowness, and, in what may be the definitive moment in the Ephron oeuvre, a scene in which an immaculately coifed Ryan wrestles with a droopy-faced dog while Annie Lennox passionlessly oversings a lite-R&B rendition of The Clash's "Train In Vain" on the soundtrack. Keaton does score a memorable, unintentionally revealing moment as actress and director when her character moves to tears a gullible female audience with a cheap, transparent, manipulative speech about her dying father, neatly encapsulating the entire film in one scene.