Three upwardly mobile young female professionals (all sisters) have to deal with their craggy old Dad's inevitable, fast approaching snuffing out. They all know that none of them are particularly close, but who's going to do the honours?
The strange thing about Hanging Up is that it has the demeanour of an out and out comedy. The troika of great comedic actresses combined with brisk pacing and broad brushstrokes suggest this has the makings of a larf riot. Only it ain't. Never achieving a correct balance in tone, what emerges is a frazzled, frenetic piece that never gets under the skin of any of its characters or their emerging neuroses.
Based on Delia Ephron's 1995 semi-autobiographical book, it trades in the warm 'n' fuzzy arena that the Ephrons (particularly in Sleepless In Seattle and You've Got Mail, both directed by Nora) have made their stock in trade. There are lots of signs that this is meant to be a contemporary commentary on the speed and shrill of modern life or the way illness can strike at the most disruptive times, but neither the script or the playing can fill the vapid centre. Ryan does her best Everywoman schtick as the most caring of the daughters, but has zip to work with; Keaton is one of those caricatured bitchy magazine types that populate this type of film, and Kudrow will be unstoppable when she finds the right movie - only this isn't it.
The film is not a total disaster; occasionally the Ephrons' ear for sharp language is evident, scenes of the women dressing for meetings make sharp observations about the difference between private and public visages and Matthau's grizzled, ferocious presence - he has more character in his lined face than any living actor - is always something to cherish. But Keaton as director has little sense of how to make the material real and the conclusion is so banal, you wonder how it ever got through a Hollywood script meeting.
Neither suitably funny or very dramatic, Hanging Up is the kind of touchy-feely claptrap that might just about satisfy the Channel 5 afternoon movie crowd but no-one else. It also raises an extremely worringly and frequently asked question: How did so much talent make such a poor movie?