Living Out Loud - * * 1/2*

Living Out Loud is a rather unconventional romantic comedy, as if you couldn’t tell that by its unlikely leads: Holly Hunter and Danny DeVito. However, with strong characters and an unusual storytelling style, it slowly manages to win us over.

Holly Hunter stars as Judith Nelson, the recently divorced wife of a New York City doctor (Martin Donovan). After her husband leaves her for another woman, Judith is left alone in her high-rent apartment.

She unexpectedly strikes up a friendship with her building’s elevator operator, Pat Francato (Danny DeVito). Drawn together by a shared sense of loss, the two discover sense of mutual respect. Pat has dreams of his own: he wants to start an imported olive oil business, but he is saddled with gambling debts and low self esteem. The attentions of a beautiful woman like Judith spark dreams he thought long dead…but her intentions are completely elsewhere.

A third character who enters into their lives is Liz Bailey (Queen Latifah), a blues singer who becomes an unexpected friend and confidante to Judith, and later, Pat.

The movie unfolds in an unconventional way, allowing us to listen in on rambling thoughts, cluttered memories and imagined dreams. The film keeps the audience off guard with sequences that seem to be real, but are shown to be dreams, and sequences that seem to be dreams, but are shown to be real. There’s a moment, early on, when the style threatens to overpower the film with its confusion…but it is fleeting. In the long run, the unpredictability of the structure adds to the film’s charms.

The biggest strength of Living Out Loud is its characters. Judith, Pat and Liz are all wonderful creations. They bristle with life and realism. You get the feeling that these are real people…not just flat characters quickly jotted down on a page.

However, even amid the vivid characters and quirky storytelling, there’s something that’s not quite satisfying about Living Out Loud. Yes, the storyline seems to flow naturally, and the characters all act as they reasonably should. However, many scenes are quickly hurried in and out, leaving you wanting more. In a way, the film seems like an all-too-brief affair.

Living Out Loud does have plenty of good moments, and overall it is an enjoyable film to watch. A film that leaves you wanting more is certainly better than the opposite.

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