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DeVito Defeated

[whitespace] Living Out Loud
Open Door Policy: Newly divorced Judith (Holly Hunter) finds a friend in her doorman (Danny DeVito).

Retro women's picture 'Living Out Loud' examines the agony of a cardiologist's ex.

By Richard von Busack

THE AWKWARD TITLE of Living Out Loud sounds a loud, clear warning; here's yet another vague demi-romance patched together with retro music like "Lush Life" and "You're Nobody 'Till Somebody Loves You." The music begets retro ideas. As in Bette Davis' day, the heroine chooses between career and man. It's a brand-new relic, in short. Holly Hunter plays Judith Nelson, a professional nurse recently separated from her husband, a Manhattan cardiologist. As played by Martin "The Weasel" Donovan, Dr. Rob Nelson is truly Dr. Rat. He denied Judith children and then fell for a new hussy (Tamilyn Tomita), impregnating her right away after a speedy remarriage.

Judith meets a pair of new friends: Liz (Queen Latifah) a torch singer at a jazz club, and her co-op building's doorman Pat (Danny DeVito). The two help Judith pull herself together after the breakup. Since Pat has ambitions of becoming an olive oil importer, he's not beaten down by his flunky job. He's always there late at night when Judith is feeling especially fragile. So there's a possibility Judith might get together with Pat as an easy rebound.

Living Out Loud has a couple of sequences that portray Judith expressing her sexual side; she hires a male masseur and takes an excursion with Liz to a lesbian disco called The Confessional. One always wants to applaud sex-positivity in a movie, but in the context of this wispy little urban comedy, these moments seem to come out of nowhere. Are these scenes just here to remind us that we aren't watching television? We'd forget, because Living Out Loud is staged and created much like the serio-comic sitcoms movie comediennes land in their middle years. (This movie even has a sitcom title.) And, by the way, how old is Judith supposed to be? Past breeding age, supposedly. Judith is enraged her husband went off with a 34-year-old, but Hunter doesn't look a day over 35 herself. Might Hunter be miscast here? Perhaps she was hired because she's the most diminutive actor since Veronica Lake, and is the perfect (pint) size for a leading lady to DeVito. His Pat is supernaturally understanding of Judith's money and moods; throughout the movie he's a plain, boring nice guy, wearing that sugar-coated mensch expression that's made Robin Williams such a trial to watch. For a film about little people, Living Out Loud is notably ersatz. Privilege and poverty rub shoulders like old buddies, and a supposed hole-in-the-wall bar belonging to Pat's family looks like the most expensive Irish tavern in the borough.

Living Out Loud has an idle, self-obsessed quality, perked up with a little cancer and a little sex. The film is the directing debut of Richard LaGravanese, who adapted The Horse Whisperer and Bridges of Madison County; similarly Living Out Loud also has a supermarket novel tinge to it--it's like one of those books that's the literary equivalent of the proverbial single-woman's pint of Haagen Daz. Some might gulp it down it, but I doubt if many could feel for it, or believe it.

Living Out Loud (R; 102 min.), directed and written by Richard LaGravanese, photographed by John Bailey and starring Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah.

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From the November 5-11, 1998 issue of Metro.

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