Sunday 6 November 2022

Movie Review: Evening (2007)

A romantic drama, Evening boasts a stellar cast but chokes on a labored story intent on squeezing recycled emotions out of dreary characters.

In the present, the elderly Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) is near death, spending her last hours at home in bed being cared for by daughters Nina (Toni Collette) and Connie (Natasha Richardson). Nina is surprised when a semi-hallucinatory Ann recalls a man called Harris as her first love. Flashbacks reveal a seminal weekend from 50 years ago.

In the 1950's, Ann (Claire Danes) travels to a swanky Newport mansion to attend the wedding of her best friend Lila (Mamie Gummer). Ann reconnects with Lila's brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy), a frequently drunk aspiring writer who has harboured a crush on Ann since they were in college. Buddy introduces Ann to his friend Harris (Patrick Wilson), a handsome doctor. She is immediately smitten, but her romantic pursuit is complicated when she learns both Buddy and Lila may also be in love with Harris.

An adaptation of the book by Susan Minot, Evening is pretty as a postcard and just as disposable. Minot wrote the script with Michael Cunningham, and what may have worked on the page as thematic permission to seek self-kindness is cruelly exposed on the screen. Director Lajos Koltai exploits Ann's transitioning mental state to wedge trite mystical moments (stars, butterflies, a night nurse dressed in an angelic gown) into a stultifyingly inert narrative.

Despite the presence of an all-star cast of women (Glenn Close and Meryl Streep also have small roles), the characters are consumed by ruinous judgment, overheated dialogue, and lethargic pacing circling the same miserable laments for two hours. The most incurable problems ironically stem from the men. Buddy is allowed to wreck multiple scenes as the obnoxious drunk heartbroken young man, and his exit, while meant to be tragic, is cheerworthy. Worse still is Harris, the doctor supposedly igniting everyone's passion reduced to a stone-faced non-presence with the personality of a brick wall.

Meanwhile back in the present, Nina (the free spirit) and Connie (the responsible homemaker) bicker according to the rules of stereotypical cinematic sisters, with an unexpected pregnancy thrown in to satisfy the circle of life. Vanessa Redgrave spends the entire movie in bed babbling about one weekend in her life and trying to separate reality from fantasy. Her fever dreams were undoubtedly more entertaining than this Evening.

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