Living Out Loud

USA 1998

Reviewed by Peter Matthews


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

New York City. After 16 years of marriage, home-nurse Judith Nelson's husband Bob dumps her for another woman. Meanwhile, Pat, the lift operator in Judith's building, desperately attempts to pay off his debt to some loan sharks. When his daughter Lisa dies, Pat's wife throws him out and he moves in with his brother Philly. At Jasper's Jazz Club, Judith listens to torch-singer Liz Bailey. Looking for the toilet, she finds herself in a clinch with a stranger expecting someone else. Later, a euphoric Judith invites Pat in for coffee. When their conversation is interrupted by the loan sharks, Pat borrows $200 from Judith.

Philly agrees to lend Pat $400 so that he can repay and woo Judith. Pat confesses to Judith his dream of importing Italian food. Philly consents to pay off Pat's debt and finance a trip to Italy if he will work part-time in his bar. At the club, Judith searches for her handsome stranger in vain. Returning home drunk, she rudely ignores Pat and seeks solace with a male masseur. Later, she apologises to Pat but hesitates to accept his offer of a romantic dinner. However, after Liz gives her some happy pills, Judith ravishes a baffled Pat in the lift. Accompanying Liz to a lesbian club, Judith slow-dances with a young woman. Pat invites Judith to Italy with him but she refuses. Some months later, a happier Judith spots Pat at the jazz club with an Italian woman.


Directed by Richard LaGravenese, screenwriter of The Fisher King, The Horse Whisperer and other films, the best that can be said for the feminist rites-of-passage comedy Living Out Loud is that it seems to suffer from a guilty conscience. The movie plays a complicated shell game with the viewer, raising a whole slew of issues and then juggling the story elements so that you won't notice what a phoney bill of goods you've been sold. Probably no one is fooled while LaGravenese ties himself up in knots trying to explain why things can't work out between the madcap heroine Judith and her adoring suitor Pat. The film is ostensibly about two lyrical lost souls whose transient relationship gives them the courage to look life straight in the eye. But since he is the lowly lift operator in her exclusive Upper East Side building, their crypto-romance is flatly unequal - and the film would rather die than admit that.

There are, however, one or two strangely jarring scenes where the unstated irony of the picture almost spills out. In the first, Judith details the circumstances of her broken marriage and describes her long-term goal of becoming a paediatrician. Without a flicker of resentment, Pat replies that it must be nice if you're rich and can pick yourself up like that. While his subsequent request for a loan might be interpreted as class revenge, the disquieting ambiguity of this exchange is left hanging like a bad odour. Later on, Judith endeavours to dampen Pat's ardour by declaring her wish to be "authentic". Again, the film speedily backs away from its own nagging suspicion that her fumbling quest for personal meaning is strictly a middle-class enterprise. Judith's existential freedom and Pat's material determinism are silently registered in a mise en scène that contrasts the vast open spaces of her apartment with the claustrophobic confinement of the lift.

But though Living Out Loud gingerly concedes that class does matter, it also attempts to anaesthetise the viewer to this insight's nastier implications. Just when you have Judith pegged as a moral leech who recharges her batteries at a working man's expense, the movie squelches this impious thought by a providential bolt from the blue: she is exposed as a former guttersnipe who has merely learned to 'do' the Upper East Side. By a similar sleight of hand, the misused Pat gets fobbed off with a buxom Italian beauty and a pasta-import business, so we don't have to worry about him.

One hesitates to say it, but Living Out Loud seems very American in its social attitudes. The film would make up an instructive double bill with Ken Loach's My Name Is Joe, so emotionally devastating in its picture of the objective forces driving apart its two lovers. Admittedly, LaGravenese is making a comedy, but the facile melting-pot ideology he milks results in one of the more unintelligible and shape-shifting protagonists in screen history.

As if her class vampirism weren't enough, Judith has an incidental nibble at race in the form of a sisterly alliance with Liz, the sultry black chanteuse at a jazz dive. Does anybody really believe that this powerhouse would give a needy white woman like Judith the time of day? Yet LaGravenese seems determined to perform a clean sweep, since he also broaches the question of our heroine's inchoate sexuality. The film invents its own curious New York ritual of ladies who lunch and stare inquisitively at Judith over her copy of Edith Wharton. Finally, she's ready to take the plunge at an upscale lesbian club, which must have the strictest babe-only door policy imaginable. After dancing in tight formation with a number of these foxes, Judith begins to nuzzle one experimentally - but the rest is silence. What's pathetic about the movie is that it tries to conjure away the unresolved class theme by replacing it with the lesbian theme, and then cops out on that too. You're meant to conclude that the newly empowered Judith has many choices to make and miles to go before she sleeps with anyone, a comfy platitude that's like a big red ribbon tying up this parcel of evasions and falsehoods.


Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Richard LaGravenese
Director of Photography
John Bailey
Jon Gregory
Lynzee Klingman
Production Designer
Nelson Coates
George Fenton
©New Line Productions, Inc
Production Companies
New Line Cinema presents a Jersey Films production
Eric McLeod
Production Executive
Leon Dudevoir
Executive in Charge of Production
Carla Fry
Production Supervisor
Holly Hagy
Production Controller
Paul Prokop
Production Co-ordinators
Teresa L.E. Meyer
New York:
Lois Otto
Emily Glatter
Production Manager
New York:
Jane Raab
Unit Production Manager
Eric McLeod
Location Managers
Scott Allen Logan
New York:
Mark Kamine
Executive in Charge:
Jody Levin
Jack Deutchman
Rick Reynolds
Assistant Directors
Doug Aarniokoski
Brian Bettwy
Amy Schmidt
Michael Risoli
New York:
Robert C. Albertell
Script Supervisor
Wilma Garscadden-Gahret
Margery Simkin
Carmen Cuba
ADR Voice:
David Kramer's Looping Group
Camera Operators
Michael Stone
New York B:
Phil Abraham
Special Effects Co-ordinator
John Ziegler
Mechanical Effects Foreman
Tim W. Gospodnetich
Associate Editor
Ian Seymour
New York Art Directors
Ginger Tougas
Joseph Hodges
Set Designers
Bruce Hill
Jerry Sullivan
Set Decorators
Linda Lee Sutton
New York:
Susan Goulder
Scenic Artist
New York:
Greg Sullivan
Storyboard Artist
Dan Burton
Costume Designer
Jeffrey Kurland
Costume Supervisor
Dawn Y. Line
New York Wardrobe Supervisors
Marcia Patten
Kevin Faherty
Key Artist:
Valli O'Reilly
Carmen Tenuta
New York Artist:
Steven Lawrence
Key Hairstylist
Yolanda Toussieng
Cineric Inc
Simon Chamberlain
Executive Music Producer
Anita Camarata
Song Producer
Mervyn Warren
Production Music Supervisor
Dan Carlin
Associate Music Supervisor
Kaylin Frank
Music Associates
Simon Chamberlain
David Lawson
Music Editor
Nick Meyers
Geoff Young
Peter Cobbin
Songs Recordists
Jess Sutcliffe
Frank Wolf
Songs Mixer
David Reitzas
"Lush Life" by Billy Strayhorn, arranged by Mervyn Warren, performed by Queen Latifah; "You're Nobody 'Til Somebody Loves You" by Russ Morgan, Larry Stock, James Cavanaugh, performed by Dean Martin; "Goin' Out of My Head" by Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein, arranged by Mervyn Warren, performed by Queen Latifah; "Low Key Lightly" by Duke Ellington, performed by George Fenton; "Born to Be Blue" by Mel Tormé, Robert Wells, performed by Mel Tormé; "Give Me Something Real" by Clark Anderson, Mervyn Warren, performed by Clark Anderson; "Don't Get Around Much Anymore" by Bob Russell, Duke Ellington, performed by Robin McDonald; "At Last" by Mack Gordon, Harry Warren, performed by Etta James; "If You Love Me" by Gordon Chambers, Nichole Gilbert, Dave Hall, performed by Brownstone; "Be Anything (But Be Mine)" by Irving Gordon, arranged by Mervyn Warren, performed by Queen Latifah; "They Can't Take That Away from Me" by George Gershwin, Ira Gershwin, performed by Danny DeVito; "Hot Fun in the Summertime" by Sylvester Stewart, performed by Sly and the Family Stone
Frank Gatson Jr
Sound Mixer
Petur Hliddal
New York Recordist
Michael Scott
Re-recording Mixer
David Novack
Supervising Sound Editors
Stan Bochner
Stuart Levy
Dialogue Editors
Branka Mrkic
Pam Demetrius
Jac Rubenstein
Dan Korintus
Annette Kudrak
Effects Editors
Richard Q. King
Warren Shaw
David Boulton
Lisa Levine
George Lara
Brian Vancho
Stuart Stanley
Food Stylist
Jack White
Stunt Co-ordinator
Steve Davison
Holly Hunter
Danny DeVito
Queen Latifah
Liz Bailey
Martin Donovan
Bob Nelson
Elias Koteas
The Kisser
Richard Schiff
Mariangela Pino
Suzanne Shepherd
Eddie Cibrian
the masseur
Clark Anderson
Ellen McElduff
crying woman
Ivan Kronenfeld
angry boyfriend
Fil Formicola
Nick Sandow
Santi's men
Jenette Goldstein
Fanny, Pat's wife
Lin Shaye
Lisa's nurse
John F. Donohue
Fred Scialla
Anthony Russell
Sy Sher
Sal Jenco
Gina Philips
Kate McGregor-Stewart
female diner
Mitch Greenberg
anchorman voice-over
Tamlyn Tomita
Bob's wife

Henry Woronicz
Taylor Leigh
Fifth Avenue parents
Jasper's House Band
Mervyn Warren
Reggie Hamilton
Peter Michael Escovedo
Mark Schulz
Michael James
alto saxophone:
Gerald Albright
baritone saxophone:
Plas Johnson
tenor saxophones:
Justo Almario
Vincent Trombetta Jr
Matthew McKane
Robin McDonald
heckled singer
Yolanda Snowball
Jasper's waitress
Deborah Geffner
woman with makeup
Rachael Leigh Cook
teenage Judith
Christian Hill
teenage lover
Ed Fry
formal dress man
Judith Regan
formal dress woman
Sean Dooley
late teenager
Terry Rhoads
across hall man
Susan Reno
across hall woman
Claudia Shear
drunken fan
Mike G. Moyer
Sybil Azur
Carmit Bachar
Monique Chambers
Donielle Artese
Aisha Dubone
Shawnette Heard
Tanika Ray
Laurie Sposit
Adrian Young
Confessional dancers
Roger Nehls
Mary Schmidtberger
married couple in lawyer's office
Lou Richards
Judith's lawyer
Tom Howard
Bob's lawyer
Michael Clair Miller
couple's lawyer
Willie Garson
man in elevator
Ellen Buckley
Pat & Judith's waitress
Laura Salvato
neo-natal AIDS volunteer
Hattie Winston
hospital nurse
Mario Piccirillo
Cousin Louie
Carole Ruggier
Italian girlfriend
Entertainment Film Distributors Ltd
8,981 feet
99 minutes 47 seconds
Dolby digital/SDDS/DTS
Colour by
Prints by
Anamorphic [Panavision]
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011