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A story about the experience of loneliness and the need to be seen. 
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LIVING OUT LOUD
(1998)
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By David Bruce
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David Bruce
Living Out Loud is an adult comedy about people raging against their loneliness, the lessons they learn along the way, and the power of human connection.
 
Academy-Award® winner Holly Hunter (right) and Danny DeVito (right) star in New Line Cinema's romantic comedy, Living Out Loud. PHOTO: M. Morton/New Line Cinema
Judith: Holly Hunter
Pat: Danny DeVito
Liz Bailey: Queen Latifah
Dr. Nelson: Martin Donovan
Stranger: Elias Koteas

Written and directed by Richard LaGravenese. Running time: 102 minutes. Rated R (profanity, drug use, some sexual situations).
LIVING OUT LOUD

A character-driven comedy about a woman who finds the courage to kick-start her life through a series of surprising new relationships.

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THE STORY BEHIND THE STORY

Richard LaGravenese, the Academy Award®-nominated screenwriter of such films as The Horse Whisperer, Bridges of Madison County and The Fisher King, makes his directorial debut with his original screenplay, Living Out Loud.

LaGravenese first met producer Stacey Sher while making The Fisher King, which he wrote and she associate produced. "I never had a doubt that Richard would be an incredibly gifted filmmaker. His background is in theater and acting, so he really understands performance," said Sher. "He's also an enormous film buff and he has a tremendous wealth of knowledge to share with the cast and crew on a film."

When Jersey Films approached LaGravenese about writing an original screenplay to direct, he knew that he wanted to tell a very personal story about people and the journeys they make to find their place in life.

"We didn't want to do a film about explosions," said producer Michael Shamberg. "We were looking for something more human. The best movies are about character, and you simply don't find scripts where the characters are as well-wrought as Richard's."

While LaGravenese was looking for inspiration to write a screenplay about the experience of loneliness and the need to be seen, a friend introduced him to the short stories of Anton Chekhov. There were two stories that particularly interested him, The Kiss and Misery.

According to LaGravenese, the characters in Living Out Loud are an amalgam of the characters in Chekhov's two stories and the people who populate his own life. "There was a moment in The Kiss that moved me so much, and I used it as a springboard when I began to write the character of Judith," explained LaGravenese. "At the same time, this is a very personal piece. There's a lot of me in Judith's character; a lot of her voice is my voice."

Known for creating intensely realistic characters who evolve over the course of the story, LaGravenese was intent on finding a strong actress to portray Judith, a woman in her 40's who sacrificed her hopes and dreams to become the wife of a rich, handsome doctor. Ultimately, she loses her personal direction in the marriage, and with it, her sense of herself.

"When a relationship leads to divorce and someone leaves somebody else, my interest is in the person who is abandoned," confides LaGravenese. "I always think that at some point they abandoned themselves first.  Judith was a wild, free spirit who sacrificed that to marry a doctor. She is reawakened because of the divorce and I wanted to explore that dynamic."

Holly Hunter, who has starred in such richly drawn, character-based films as The Piano and The Firm, was immediately attracted to Judith's character and convinced LaGravenese that she was meant to play the role.

"Holly was Richard's first choice," claims producer Shamberg. "She came in with a strong sense of who Judith is and both the comedy and the tragedy of her situation. She truly knew this character inside-out."

"This is a terrific role for an actress," continues Hunter, who relished the opportunity to play a character who experiences such an amazing and life-changing personal transformation. "When we first meet Judith, she is
an observer, a voyeur. She would love to be a part of the world, but she feels separate from it. Her journey is a subtle one to find the truth about herself. This character was a real adventure for me."

Like Judith, Pat is also on a journey of self-recovery, and, like Judith, he is also written from a personal place. "Pat is based on my father," recalls LaGravenese, who wrote the part specifically for Danny DeVito.  "This is the first time I've had an actor in mind during the writing process. At first, it was a bit harder, but I could always hear his voice clearly in my head, and soon, he just came to life for me."

In the film, Pat is under a great deal of pressure. His daughter is ill, his wife has thrown him out and he is forced to live with his successful brother. A gambler in everything from life to money, Pat has many debts and dreams of making a better life for himself. Until he meets Judith, dreams are all he has.

"I like being presented with opportunities to reveal new personas on screen," DeVito said. "We were all excited about Richard's screenplay. He writes with convincing authority and these characters are people we have all known in our lives."

Perhaps the most important responsibility for the filmmakers in bringing Living Out Loud to the screen was finding actors who could convincingly balance the unlikely chemistry between Pat and Judith. "Holly loved their relationship, and what was really extraordinary was that she wanted to come in and read with Danny right off the bat," remarked Sher. "From the beginning, their connection was enchanting. It was magical."

One of the most climactic and tender scenes in Living Out Loud takes place when Judith is unexpectedly pulled into a dark closet and kissed passionately by a complete stranger. It is at this pivotal point that Judith embarks on her journey of self-discovery. "In the beginning, Judith is a woman longing for passion and truth," explains LaGravenese. "The beginning of her transformation occurs with the kiss, because in that surprise encounter she feels a connection with someone."

Later that same night, when Judith arrives home she sees Pat as if for the first time. If it weren't for the kiss, she might never have noticed him. "Because of this window of awakening, they see each other in a very special moment and share something unique and honest," adds LaGravenese.

"I think Judith recognizes the exposure of his pain because she feels that hers has also been revealed," agrees Hunter. "It is as though the kisser has given her eyes to see."

When LaGravenese originally wrote the part of Liz Bailey, the soulful singer who enters Judith's life and helps her to move on, he intended the character to be much older. However, after meeting with Queen Latifah, who garnered attention from audiences and critics alike with her performance in the box office hit Set It Off, he changed his mind.

"Her presence was so extraordinary that I realized having a younger actress play Liz expanded the theme of the movie and made it more universal," said LaGravenese. On the surface, Liz Bailey is a cool and sensible person, but inside, she's struggling with her own fear of rejection.

Queen Latifah related to her character's experience of being in relationships with the wrong people, "This story appealed to me because it is about normal, everyday people. Liz is dealing with a lot of emotional conflict but she masks it and I thought that was realistic. We've all known people who have dated someone they knew was absolutely wrong for them and yet they did it anyway. We compromise and fool ourselves into thinking that everything will be okay."

Like the other characters in Living Out Loud, Liz also goes through an awakening. Through her friendship with Judith, she finally faces the truth about her relationship with her boyfriend Gary - a truth she had been afraid to recognize. "The characters in this film wake up and begin to deal with reality," states Latifah.  "Whatever it is, they face it and learn how to live with it and become fulfilled human beings."

Living Out Loud, © New Line Cinema. All rights reserved.
PHOTOS: M. Morton/New Line Cinema
BULLETIN BOARD

CAN RELATE
March 16, 1999. I loved the movie. I was divorced for about 5 years and can understand what Judith was going through. Again it was a great movie.

A GREAT SLICE OF LIFE FILM
I enjoyed this movie and the portrayal of how life can break through the hum drum of daily existence with renewed passion and a feeling of "I'm glad to be alive." However, I found some areas that a little tighter editing of the screenplay could have fixed. As an example the internal monologue of Judith evolving into Living Out Loud would have played better (in my opinion) had there been some similar internal monologue from Pat as he too began to Live Out Loud. All in all this came across as a great slice of life film that in total was better executed than was the crafting of the script. I definitely want to see more of Queen Latifha.