Invited to write a movie review for Ashely Siegel’s Short Takes column, this Buddhist agrees to tackle the task at hand. She buys herself a bucket of popcorn and walks into the opening sequence of Hanging Up. She is assaulted by the film’s first 60 seconds, which portrays rampant games of verbal ping-pong volleyed between a variety of cell phones. Ah, the lovely cell phone. But as the film’s introduction continues its undulation, this Buddhist thinks, “Hmm, what perfect propaganda this movie would make for potential converts, as it vibrantly illustrates the extreme opposite of mindfulness and present living, with its characters who rush through their distracted lives in the utter state of elsewhere.” Welcome to life in the 21st century. Welcome to Hanging Up. Based on a semi-autobiographical screenplay by comedy writers Nora and Delia Ephron, we meet Meg Ryan, Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow, three distracted sisters who are called upon to cope with their playboy father’s failing health (played here in a standout performance by Walter Matthau). It is through the use of the symbolic telephone that all four family members maintain a sense of unity. And while each character can boast significant levels of personal success, all shine most when they are waist-deep in human struggles and forced to persevere in humorous and flawed ways. Keaton, who also directed this film, takes creative and thoughtful cinematic leaps, including: photographic memory sequences; jumps through timelines; tight facial shots; intriguing costumes; and plenty of delicious Pottery Barn visuals. As Hanging Up progresses from “phone equals God” to “phone equals serious nuisance,” its theme of “disconnection as a positive attribute” comes to light. For, by the end of the film — after an intense series of face-to-face, heartfelt talks — the sisters realize their attachment to the world of quick phone-bytes are no substitute for the intimacy spawned by real, interpersonal dialogue. And as the credits roll, the Buddhist smiles as she detaches from this meditation on the evolution of three women who manage to forge new bonds within the evocative cycles of life and death.
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