Hanging Up

USA 2000

Reviewed by Stephanie Zacharek


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

Los Angeles, the present. Eve Marks realises her addled, elderly, ex-screenwriter father must go into hospital. Her two sisters, soap-opera starlet Maddy and egotistical magazine editor Georgia, are too wrapped up in their own lives to share significantly the responsibility of caring for him, despite Eve's efforts to involve them.

Eve loves her father, but their relationship has always been prickly: she frequently flashes back to difficult moments they've had in the past, and she also has difficulty dealing with her cold, distant mother, who estranged herself from the family years earlier.

Eve is also continually frustrated with the behaviour of her two sisters, despite the sometimes grudging affection the three of them share. She and Maddy become incensed when Georgia, who has flown out to LA from her home in New York to give a speech to a women's group, uses their father's illness as a tear-jerking way to win over her audience. Directly following the speech the sisters receive a call telling them that their father has slipped into a coma. They rush to his bedside and reconcile their differences as they wait, hoping for his recovery. He awakens momentarily only to utter his last words.

A few months later, the sisters, bonded in grief and getting along fabulously, throw flour at one another as they cook a Thanksgiving dinner.


Sisterhood is powerful. So why, in Hanging Up, does it have to smell so bad - like a cross between musty perfume and an overpowering air freshener? Co-screenwriters (and sisters) Delia and Nora Ephron (the latter directed Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail) bring out the worst impulses in each other, and it's frustrating: Hanging Up occasionally brushes up against some thorny family issues, particularly the problems inherent in dealing with a difficult, ageing parent, and sometimes it almost tricks us into believing it just might deal with them in an original and believable way. But the Ephrons always end up going for the predictable jokes (it doesn't help that they've got eternally cute moppet Meg Ryan as their handmaiden), and the picture's resolution feels cowardly at best. It's laced with bittersweetness, but not nearly enough of it - as if the Ephrons needed to make sure they wouldn't scare off all the women's book groups, the Oprah fans, the frazzled and sensitive soccer moms out there in the audience.

In that respect, Hanging Up is the worst kind of 'women's' picture, the kind that sets out to give women what they supposedly want in a movie even as it seems to be painting by numbers, insulting everyone's intelligence in the process. You'd expect more from director Diane Keaton, whose Unstrung Heroes had so much freewheeling warmth. There are a few lovely touches here - particularly a flashback near the end showing the girls' parents slow-dancing in a slo-mo haze that gets at the subtle idea that the bond between parents, even those who end up estranged from one another, is often something that their children can't, and aren't meant to, understand.

But the most memorable images from Hanging Up are Meg Ryan flashing that curlicue smile, absent-mindedly smashing up her vehicle and padding around her picture-perfect California home in puffy footgear that's probably supposed to make her look adorably clownish. Walter Matthau, with his leering, gummy smile, makes for one very annoying old man - a candidate for plug-pulling if ever there was one. Lisa Kudrow, predictably, plays the dizzy sister, but her sometimes appealing spaciness reads like nothing so much as shtick here. Keaton has the most amusing bits - she's got the aura of New York women's magazine editors down cold, right down to her smug, ruthless, we're-all-just-girls-here crocodile smile.

But no actress can redeem a movie with as many shameless greeting-card moments as Hanging Up. "I am just the tiniest bit jealous of your heart," Keaton tells Ryan in one of the movie's pivotal scenes, and the sisters' smiles crinkle more loudly than cellophane. There are other lessons to be learned from watching Hanging Up: a wise and wonderful mother figure unexpectedly enters Ryan's life and, after listening to her woes, informs her, "Sometimes it's necessary to disconnect." That's the obvious message of Hanging Up. It's little wonder, then, that it has all the profundity of a dial tone.


Diane Keaton
Laurence Mark
Nora Ephron
Delia Ephron
Nora Ephron
Based on the book by
Delia Ephron
Director of Photography
Howard Atherton
Julie Monroe
Production Designer
Waldemar Kalinowski
David Hirschfelder
©Global Entertainment Productions GmbH & Co. Movie KG
Production Companies
Columbia Pictures presents a Nora Ephron and Laurence Mark production
Executive Producers
Delia Ephron
Bill Robinson
Diana Pokorny
Executive for Blue Relief
Amanda McHugh
Executive for Laurence Mark Productions
Petra Alexandria
Production Supervisor
Michelle Morrissey
Production Co-ordinator
Brigette Lester
Unit Production Manager
Diana Pokorny
Location Manager
Bob Craft
Assistant Directors
K.C. Colwell
Darin Rivetti
Paula Harris
Script Supervisor
Marion Tumen
Lisa Beach
Sarah Katzman
Camera Operator
Doug O'Neons
Steadicam Operator
Greg Lundsgaard
Visual Effects
Digiscope, Inc
Special Effects Supervisor
J.D. Streett IV
Special Effects
Tom Seymour
Art Director
Troy Sizemore
Set Designer
Mick Cukurs
Set Decorator
Florence Fellman
Costume Designer
Bobbie Read
Costume Supervisor
Elinor Bardach
Make-up Supervisor
Steve Artmont
Hair Supervisor
Jan Alexander
Main Titles Design
Garson Yu
Opticals/End Titles
Cinema Research Corporation
Thomas Pasatieri
Music Editor
Richard Whitfield
Music Scoring Mixer
Dennis Sands
Music Consultant
Bonnie Greenberg
"Once Upon a Time" by Charles Strouse, Lee Adams, performed by Jay McShann; "Junk", "Singalong Junk" by/performed by Paul McCartney; "Have Yourself a Merry Little
Christmas" by Ralph Blane, Hugh Martin, performed by Judy Garland; "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" by Jule Styne, Sammy Cahn, performed by Dean Martin; "Movin' On Up" by Jeff Barry, Ja'net Dubois, performed by Ja'net Dubois; "Train in Vain" by Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, performed by Annie Lennox; "Happy Birthday to You" by Mildred J. Hill, Patty S. Hill; "Georgia on My Mind" by Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Gorrell, performed by Steve Tyrell
Production Mixer
Charles M. Wilborn
Re-recording Sound Mixers
Kevin O'Connell
Greg P. Russell
Supervising Sound Editor
Michael Wilhoit
Dialogue Editors
Frederick H. Stahly
Kimaree Long
Lauren Stephens
Sound Effects Editors
Philip Hess
Stu Bernstein
Scott Wolf
Greg Hedgepath
Gary Hecker
Michael Broomberg
Supervising Editor:
Susan Dudeck
Andrea Horta
Joe Dorn
Richard Duarte
Gary Mundheim
Mark Gordon
Stunt Co-ordinator
Jack Gill
Meg Ryan
Eve Marks
Diane Keaton
Lisa Kudrow
Walter Matthau
Lou Mozell
Adam Arkin
Cloris Leachman
Pat Mozell
Jesse James
Jesse Marks
Edie McClurg
Duke Moosekian
Omar Kunundar
Ann Bortolotti
Ogmed Kunundar
Maree Cheatham
Myndy Crist
Doctor Kelly
Libby Hudson
Georgia's assistant
Tracee Ellie Ross
Celia Weston
Madge Turner
Bob Kirsh
Nixon Library representative
Stephanie Ittleson
Venessia Valentino
nurse at mesh window
R.A. Buck
Phil Levesque
gay men
Paige Wolfe
Eve, six years old
Charles Matthau
young Lou
Ethan Dampf
Jesse, four years old
Mary Beth Pape
mother at party
Catherine Paolone
Carol Mansell
woman who recognizes Maddy
Katie Stratton
Georgia, 12 years old
Talia-Lynn Prairie
Maddy, four years old
Kristina Dorn
young Pat
Lucky Vanous
Montana dude
Bill Robinson
doctor on soap
Jaffe Cohen
Jonathan Gale
Columbia Tristar Films (UK)
8,509 feet
94 minutes 33 seconds
Dolby digital/Digital DTS sound/SDDS
Colour by
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011