"Evening" is a beautiful museum piece that makes for a very tedious motion picture. It's a crystalline look at the struggle between the passions of the heart vs. the dread of obligation, and it's a picture begging on bloody knees for reverence. It's a shame that the film is ice cold to the touch.
Ann (played in old age by Vanessa Redgrave and in fiery youth by Claire Danes) is bedridden, despondent, and about to expire, cared for by her two daughters (Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette) with their own set of domestic troubles. As Ann slips in and out of consciousnesses, she flashes back to her "first mistake:" the tumultuous weekend of her friend Lila's (Meryl Streep and real life daughter Mamie Gummer) wedding, where she fell in love with Harris (Patrick Wilson), a doctor who was the object of every girl's affection, and embarked on an affair she never fully recovered from.
Adapted from Susan Minot's novel, think of "Evening" as "Bridges of Madison County" meets "How to Make an American Quilt." It's a multi-layered story of remorse and romance from a feminine perspective; a picture wrapped up tightly in the warm bosom of tragedy and forgiveness, almost angelic in the way it approaches trauma. Truthfully, "Evening" is melodrama with the brake lines slashed; a curiously dreary installment of the "Who Has More Psychological Baggage!" game show where every character is a winner.
At its best, "Evening" is a sumptuously photographed picture, grandly displaying the treasures of the lake country, with its bone-white mansions, misty forests, and sunsets that last forever. It's a great setting for this tale of wounded hearts, acting as the safety net when the drama gets out of control. Director (and part-time cinematographer) Lajos Koltai has a great command over his setting, and he can get to the meat of the often dreamlike structure of the picture easily. It's only when it comes time to ball the film into a resonate whole does he reveal his directorial inexperience.
"Evening" means well and I always enjoy a good soap opera, especially one ripe with catastrophic romantic choices; however, there's a detachment to "Evening" that doesn't match the film's intent as a retirement-home tearjerker. It's a frosty frolic, slowly turning blue due a lack of narrative oxygen. A majority of the film is restless time jumping and the occasional abstract daydream. Nothing commands attention here, even with this golden cast (Glenn Close, Hugh Dancy, and Eileen Atkins also appear) and a script co-written by malaise extraordinaire Michael Cunningham ("The Hours").
"Evening" slumbers to a full stop by the end of the film, standing too still for too long, perhaps waiting for applause that never comes. There's so much material to sort through here, but it barely reaches a boil. Without the pluck of the cast, I can't imagine how the funereal tone of the film would play, but I'm thrilled to have them here, proving again that talent and starpower are two elements any movie could use more of.
For further online adventure, please visit brianorndorf.com