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There are numerous adjectives you could employ while describing a movie like Evening: corny, precious, melodramatic, predictable, sappy, sweet, formulaic, etc. You get the point. But hey, women over the age of 40 like movies too, and this is one that's tailor-made for that specific demographic. And as far as well-scrubbed Lifetime Channel experiences go, this one's not half-bad. But were it not for the stellar ensemble, this film would be playing on your television and never at your local theater.
Ann Lord is dying. As played by Vanessa Redgrave in her autumn years and Claire Danes in her youth, Ann is a bold and daring woman ... whose made several mistakes over the course of her life. And in case you haven't guessed by now, Evening is a whole lot like The Notebook, in that it jumps back and forth between the present and the past whenever the director feels the transition is most obvious. We get some mild character development from Ann's two daughters (Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson) as poor Ann lies dying in her bedroom, and then woosh we're swept back to the 1950s era.
It's here in the (much more interesting) flashback section that we meet young Ann and her engaged pal Lila (Mamie Gummer in the '50s; Meryl Streep in later years), and well LILA is engaged to KARL, but harbors a massive crush on HARRIS while her brother BUDDY lusts after ANN who does have an affair with HARRIS despite the advances of RALPH and then there's PIP and PEACH and LIZZIE. Oh, and Glenn Close pops up as a hoity-toity upper-crust '50s lady, just in case the flick needed a little extra estrogen.
Directed by longtime cinematographer Lajos Koltai, the film certainly LOOKS like a million bucks. Rolling hills, picture-perfect period set design, pretty faces captured beautifully ... like a Hallmark card, basically. The massive cast does the best it can with the intermittently maudlin soap opera histrionics, and much of the film is blandly appealing, if not exactly engaging. But if this sort of movie is your cup of tea, then Evening is a fine enough example of the "Wistful Nostalgia" plate, served with a side order of "Bring some Kleenex." Frankly I could watch Danes, Collette, Streep, Close, Richardson, etc., as they go food shopping, which just goes to show what a bunch of great actors can do for a fairly conventional tear-jerker.
The anamorphic widescreen (2.40:1) transfer is really quite excellent, especially in the more picturesque "flashback" sequences. Audio is crisply delivered in Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish), with optional subtitles in the same three languages.
Fans of the film will no doubt enjoy the 5-minute block of deleted scenes, as well as the two featurettes: "One Weekend By the Sea: Remembering Evening" (16:13) and "Adapting Evening" (9:36). They're your basic cast & crew interview bits with some movie scenes tossed in for filler. Fairly fluffy, but not too annoying.
Obviously this movie was made more for my mother (and grandmother) than it was for me, but even they'd be able to acknowledge Evening for the stock-obvious and cliche-laden affair it is. And then they'd toss me out of the room so they could finish watching the movie in peace. With Kleenex.