2007, PG-13, 117 min. Directed by Lajos Koltai. Starring Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Natasha Richardson, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, Eileen Atkins, Mamie Gummer, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep.
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., June 29, 2007
Duty and the general state of things in Hollywood, I suppose, make us feel grateful for a woman-centered Hollywood movie that stars an abundant number of award-winning actresses, is co-scripted by a Pulitzer Prize-winning author (Michael Cunningham of The Hours), features an outstanding number of women among its technical crew, and is directed by the highly accomplished cinematographer-turned-director Koltai. However, grateful and praiseworthy are hardly the same things. Evening has so much going for it that it's painful to report that all this window dressing is to no avail. The performances are terrific, even occasionally breathtaking in small moments, but they are hampered by an overly convoluted script that takes a very simple concept and complicates it with a back-and-forth temporal flow and an overabundance of characters and relationships. Based on the novel by Susan Minot (who co-wrote the screenplay with The Hours' Cunningham), Evening is the story of the dying hours of Ann Lord (Redgrave), who, during these moments, reflects solely on an evening some 50 years ago when she believes she made an unrecoverable mistake in love. In her fevered state, she makes cryptic comments about the night to her two dutiful daughters (played by Collette and the actress' real-life daughter Richardson). The events of 50 years ago are played out by Danes as the young Ann and her friend Lila (Gummer – Streep's real-life daughter, who is a revelatory chip off the old block). Atkins is the bedside nurse, who is prone to magical moments sheathed in gossamer. There are a couple of men (Wilson and Dancy), one of whom is the mistake, but we have to take that on faith since the movie shows us virtually nothing of Ann's subsequent 50 years so that we may decide for ourselves if a mistake has or has not been made – and, moreover, whether it matters in the least. Even from the depths of her bedsheets, Redgrave still manages to inspire awe, yet a poetically prosaic moment like the one in which she goes chasing after a butterfly is enough to throw a net over the whole thing. However, when Streep, as the older Lila, comes for a last-act visit to the dying Ann and climbs into bed with her, the two share a peerless bravura moment in which all gripes about the movie are temporarily forgiven.