[Screen It]


(1998) (Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito) (R)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Heavy None Moderate None None
Minor None None None Extreme
Smoking Tense Family
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Romantic Drama: A recently divorced woman tries to find happiness and solace in her life through the prospects of new romance.
Judith Nelson (HOLLY HUNTER) is a registered nurse who now finds herself living alone in her plush Manhattan co-op after her cardiologist husband, Bob (MARTIN DONOVAN), leaves her for a younger woman. Confused and bitter, Judith tries to cope with being on her own, and often has wild, release-based fantasies while doing so.

Frequenting a local jazz club where she goes to watch Liz Bailey (QUEEN LATIFAH), a sultry jazz singer, Judith has a chance romantic counter that suddenly shows her the possibilities of her life getting back on track. Deciding to befriend Pat (DANNY DeVITO), her building's elevator operator, on her way home, she learns that he too has faced loss and failed romance in his life. He incorrectly interprets her friendly ways, however, and believes a potential romance may be building between them.

Nonetheless, he has other problems to contend with, including a large debt owed to some local thugs, a fact that worries his brother, Philly (RICHARD SCHIFF), a local bar owner who wants Pat to come and work for him.

As Judith and Pat's friendship grows, the two must come to terms with what the other wants from a possible relationship and their overall lives.

Older teens may want to see it, but unless others are fans of Hunter or DeVito, it's not very likely.
For language, and for sexuality and drug content.
  • HOLLY HUNTER plays a recently divorced woman filled with angst and uncertainty. Consequently, she cusses, drinks a lot (getting drunk in one scene and "high" from some pills in another) and smokes.
  • DANNY DEVITO plays an elevator operator who's wife has kicked him out. Holding some large gambling debts, he also drinks and cusses but is a likeable guy.
  • QUEEN LATIFAH plays the sultry blues singer who befriends Judith and tries to help her.


    OUR TAKE: 7 out of 10
    The old saying goes, "Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery," and if that's true, screenwriter turned director Richard LaGravenese must love the hit TV show, "Ally McBeal." Either that, or he curses it for the case of bad timing with the release of his first film, especially since the similarities between the two fantasy laden, angst ridden, romantic dramas are striking.

    Like "McBeal," this film's protagonist -- the recently divorced Judith, marvelously played with zeal by Holly Hunter -- is a lonely woman whose worries and fears concerning her solitude, lack of romance, and the overall state of the world drive her crazy. Similarly, she also suffers from an overactive id that would not only make Dr. Freud proud, but which also manifests itself in humorous fantasies scattered throughout the production.

    Despite the "theft," borrowing, or sheer coincidental timing, the film still manages to feel fresh despite its similarities to "McBeal." While such fantasy moments are obviously the film's highlights and clear crowd pleasers, the strong performances, stemming from LaGravenese's finely tuned and well-written characters, are what really make the film work.

    Reportedly "inspired" by two short stories from Anton Chekhov, LaGravenese's screenplay might not be long on story -- and ultimately never really resolves anything -- but the characters ring true, the humor is dry and witty, and most importantly, the film is easy and always enjoyable to watch.

    That shouldn't come as a surprise since LaGravenese's previous writing efforts -- the script for "The Fisher King" (for which he earned an Oscar nomination) and his adaptions of "The Bridges of Madison County" and "Beloved" among others -- all feature strong characters and interesting and successfully executed stories despite their often slow moving plots.

    Bucking the trend of making high concept films with flimsy, cardboard characters, the writer/director delivers realistic, flesh and blood creations that manage to carry the film simply due to our immediate and sustained interest in them.

    Of course, you need decent performers to inhabit those roles, and like LaGravenese's other works, this film doesn't fail in that regard. In the central role, Holly Hunter ("The Piano," "Broadcast News") is an absolute delight. I've always enjoyed her performances throughout her career and this one ranks up there with her best.

    While it's obvious to compare her to Calista Flockhart as Ally McBeal, the characters, while similar, have enough differences to enjoy both on different levels. Hunter easily segues from romance to pathos, and with bits of humor thrown in for good measure, she not only makes the character her own, but also immediately draws the audience's sympathy.

    Like Hunter, Danny DeVito ("Ruthless People," "Get Shorty") always manages to create interesting and enjoyable characters, and this role is no exception. Playing the lonely, "sad sack" persona that he honed while showing the rare, vulnerable side of his normally caustic Louie De Palma character on TV's "Taxi," DeVito similarly wins the audience's empathy with his winning performance.

    Despite playing a more substantial, but similarly based character as Vonda Shepard plays on "McBeal" (the singer at the club where the protagonists hang out), Queen Latifah delivers her finest screen performance to date. Jettisoning the tough lady persona she's often played in the past (such as in "Set It Off"), Latifah is quite good in her more subdued, blues singing role. With such a good performance, one hopes she'll play more roles like this one.

    Beyond the film's often slow pace and lack of a complete (and customary) romantic resolution, some viewers and critics may have a problem with the film's fantasy elements. Beyond their obvious similarities to those in "McBeal," they're occasionally not as clear cut here, and often leave the audience wondering whether they really happened or not.

    I personally found that part appealing, but only wished that more of them -- such as the funny scene where Hunter watches a report of her own suicide leap on the news, and a fabulously constructed dance number -- would have been placed throughout the movie. While their relatively sparse occurrences don't hurt the film, a few more of them certainly would have given the production a bit more zest.

    Quirky and dryly funny, and featuring solid performances from its leads, "Living Out Loud" may not appeal to everyone and might be a bit slow for others, but it's a decent first outing by LaGravenese. We found it enjoyable and thus give the film a 7 out of 10.

    Although it's questionable how many kids will want to see this film (older teens at best), here's a quick look at its content. Profanity is extreme with at least 14 "f" words and an assortment of other words and phrases.

    We see a brief view of Holly Hunter's bare butt, along with momentary glimpses of her bare breasts and what looked like a split-second full frontal glimpse (all occurring during a sensuous massage fantasy scene). Another fantasy involves a disco that turns into an all lesbian affair (nothing more than kissing and sensual elements), and other brief sexual talk also occurs.

    A heavy amount of drinking occurs with Judith being drunk in one scene and "high" from some pills she takes in another. Moderate amounts of smoking occur, and the thematic issues of divorce and loneliness are also present. Beyond all of that, however, many of the film's other categories have little or no major objectionable content.

  • Various background characters drink in many scenes set in a jazz club and/or restaurants.
  • Judith, her husband and others have drinks in a restaurant.
  • Judith has a glass of wine.
  • There's some humorous passing talk about "crack babies" (but we don't see anything).
  • Pat and some friends drink while playing poker.
  • Judith has wine.
  • Judith drinks a martini.
  • Liz orders scotch at the bar (we don't see her drink).
  • Pat drinks a shot of liquor.
  • Judith and Pat have wine.
  • We see that Judith has had many martinis and then appears rather drunk.
  • Pat and Judith drink liquor.
  • Pat, Judith, Liz and her boyfriend have drinks at the club.
  • Liz gives Judith some sort of pills (to take her mind off things) and we later see Judith take some and then see her "high" reaction.
  • At the club, Pat has a beer while Judith has a martini, and they later have drinks with dinner (beer and martini).
  • In one scene, Judith nearly appears to be smoking a joint (due to its appearance and the way she's holding it), but this couldn't be confirmed and may just be a cigarette.
  • None.
  • Judith's husband has both for leaving her for another woman (and earlier lying about not wanting kids).
  • Judith meets a man who admits to secretly waiting for a married woman (ie. An affair).
  • Some may see Pat's gambling debt and his ever present need to borrow money to pay it off as having some of both.
  • A few may see the film as having some of both for portraying a fantasy suicide (leaping from a window) with humor as having both.
  • None.
  • None.
  • Phrases: "Piece of sh*t," "Scared sh*tless," "Suck d*ck," "Nuts" (crazy), "Get off my ass," "Slut," "Bastard" and "Shut up."
  • Judith throws parts of her muffin (along with a glass of water) at her ex-husband to irritate him.
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 14 "f" words (1 used with "mother," another used sexually), 8 "s" words, 8 slang terms using male genitals ("pr*ck" and "d*ck"), 5 asses (1 used with "hole"), 5 hells, 2 damns and 3 uses each of "Jesus Christ," "God," "Oh God" and "Jesus," 2 uses of "G-damn," and 1 use each of "Swear to God," "For Christ's sakes" and "Oh my God" as exclamations.
  • Liz shows some cleavage in various outfits she wears.
  • We see Judith in her bra (with some cleavage).
  • Judith makes a sarcastic comment, "Well, you sound great, can I f*ck you?"
  • We hear the sounds of what's presumably a porno tape playing on Phil's TV (we don't see anything and the sounds aren't too explicit).
  • In what's partially a fantasy, a masseur calls on Judith at her home. After setting up, he strips down to his underwear and then leaves to use the bathroom. Judith then drops her robe and we briefly see her bare butt, a momentary full frontal view, and various brief glimpses of her bare breasts until she covers herself with a sheet. The masseur then begins a sensual rub down where he massages the top part of her butt, and encourages her to feel him back. We then see her put her hands on this guy's butt and then down inside the back of his underwear. All of this is intercut with scenes presumably of Judith at a younger age having a romantic encounter with some unknown guy (sensual kissing while clothed and standing up).
  • Presumably commenting on a boyfriend who turned out to be gay, Liz comments that he had "a need to suck d*ck."
  • In what's presumably a fantasy, Judith ends up at a lesbian nightclub where we see some women kissing as well as others making their moves on Judith who doesn't reject them.
  • Judith smokes quite often during the movie (including once on an elevator) and Liz also smokes.
  • Various other people smoke in the jazz club, on the street, or at a poker game (cigarettes and cigars).
  • Judith is divorced from her husband (and we see several fights) and Pat's wife threw him out after many years of marriage.
  • A middle-aged woman and her ill mother don't get along.
  • We learn that Pat's teenage daughter died at some point in the past (but due to the film's odd temporal structure we don't know how long ago). Beyond one scene, however, this is never mentioned again.
  • Marital problems.
  • Loneliness and romance.
  • In one of Judith's fantasies, she imagines Liz admitting to stabbing her former husband and Judith comments that she wished she had done the same.
  • Frustrated, and during an argument, Judith lightly hits her husband several times.

  • Reviewed October 29, 1998

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