As a writer and producer, Wagner's been responsible for some bleak, weird stuff, like Scenes from the Class Struggle in Beverly Hills and TV's Twin Palms. In his directorial debut, based on his bestselling novel of the same name, he blends several grim stories into a compelling whole. Following a rich, dysfunctional Jewish family in Hollywood, this picture turns into a haunting meditation on death and dying.
"It's all just one long goodbye," a minor character suggests. Thanks to his snappy script and keen eye--and a well-chosen cast headed by Langella, Jens, McCarthy and Arquette--this film is also very much a paean to life.