Another point that many critics have raised is
the lack of resemblance between Redgrave and
Clare Danes, who portrays the youthful
incarnation of her character. Now in most other
films where actors share a role, most of the
time audiences tend to accept it. I can think of
numerous instances, including Noah Taylor and
Geoffrey Rush in
SHINE, Wentworth Miller and
Anthony Hopkins in
THE HUMAN STAIN, and
Shia LeBoeuf and Robert Downey Jr in
A GUIDE
TO RECOGNIZING YOUR SAINTS
. What seems
to have doomed this pairing (which did not
bother me as much as others) is that Ann's best
friend is portrayed in the flashbacks by Mamie
Gummer and in contemporary times by
Gummer's real-life mother Meryl Streep. Being
mother and daughter, they clearly share
similarities. Compounding the issue is that
Redgrave's daughter, Natasha Richardson,
portrays her on screen child. Toni Collette also
plays one of Redgrave's children. But what I
think people are missing is that this is how Ann
is remembering herself and sometimes memory
plays tricks on us -- we want to think of
ourselves as someone different or better. Taking
this tack, the differences between the actresses
is not such a big deal.




















The contemporary sequences may scare people
because essentially we are witnessing the last
days of a person. This is not an indictment of
the health care industry in the manner that
THE
DEATH OF MR. LAZARESCU was, but instead,
is the slow ebbing away of a woman's life. Like
many at the end, Redgrave's Ann rallies and
appears to be more robust than might be
expected of one in her condition. But the
character also drifts off into drug-induced
reveries, some of which are presented in the
contemporary scenes, such as one where
Redgrave imagines her nurse (the impeccable
Eileen Atkins) as a sort of fairy godmother
character. These touches of magic realism do jar
a bit as they are rare and don't quite fit into the
overall scheme of the film.

The bulk of the story revolves around a weekend
when the bohemian Ann, a single woman living
in Manhattan's Greenwich Village and pursuing a
career as a singer, travels to tony Newport,
Rhode Island, for the society wedding of her
friend Lila Wittenborn (Gummer). Ann and Lila
are college chums and Lila's younger brother
Buddy (Hugh Dancy), a would-be writer with a
drinking problem, clearly finds Ann attractive.
She treats him in a more or less fraternal
manner. Ann, though, is intrigued by a childhood
pal Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson) who is now a
successful doctor. It turns out that Harris is the
child of one of the Wittenborn's servants and
the object of Lila's unrequited love. His
presence leads Lila to have second thoughts
about her impending marriage, although she is
aware that good girls of her social status don't
run off with the offspring of the help.

The movie shifts between time periods,
sometimes inelegantly, which may simply be a
factor of having different writers work on the
script. For me, what salvaged the film and made
it compelling were the excellent performances of
its mostly female cast.

In my opinion, Vanessa Redgrave is one of the
cinema's global treasures. Even if she's miscast
(and she is not in this film), this actress is
fascinating to watch. She mines a character for
its innate truth and her performances are well
thought out and performed with skill and
excellence. She and Eileen Atkins have shared
the stage and there's a terrific chemistry
between them that resonates. Redgrave also
gets a gentle and moving scene with her
daughter Natasha Richardson as well as several
meaty scenes with Toni Collette. These
actresses portray the two offspring who embody
the divergent spirits of the character of Ann.
Richardson is the suburban wife and mother, the
"good girl," while Collette is cast as the "wild
child," the bohemian who hasn't settled down
and who flits from job to job and man to man.
When Streep arrives in what is an extended
cameo, watching she and Redgrave interact for
the first time on screen (the two were both in
the cast of 1977's
JULIA but had no scenes
together) is akin to a master class in screen
acting. These amazing performers imbue their
moments together with a lifetime of friendship
and understanding and during this particular
sequence,
EVENING enters the realm of great
cinema. Streep also gets a lovely moment with
Collette as well.

In the flashback sequences, Danes and Gummer
do yeoman work as the younger versions of
these women. Both are quite effective in their
roles and their relationship is nicely developed.
Danes actually carries the lion's share of the
1950s sequences and she proves worthy. I've
had some difficulties with her in the past in
some of her roles, but not in this time out.

For me, Dancy was the real surprise. I felt he
took what was essentially a cliche and created a
fully-realized character. Although Buddy is
something of a minor character in Minot's novel,
Cunningham built up his role in the film.

The large supporting cast also includes nice
work by Glenn Close and Barry Bostwick as
Gummer's parents and Ebon Moss-Bachrach as
Collette's musician lover. The only sour note for
me was struck by Patrick Wilson in the role of
Harris Arden. Wilson is good looking enough,
but he's always left me sort of cold. Here he
plays another variation on his character from
LITTLE CHILDREN and once again I fail to
understand what all the fuss is about.

The production values on
EVENING are all
first-rate, from Caroline Hanania's production
design that perfectly captures the elegance of
Newport to Ann Roth's costumes to Gyula Pados'
masterful cinematography.

While overall
EVENING doesn't quite reach the
heights it should, it is well worth while, if for no
other reason than to see a bevy of marvelous
actresses, most notably Vanessa Redgrave and
Meryl Streep.


Rating:                B
MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for some
                            thematic elements,
                            sexual material, a
                            brief accident scene
                            and language
Running time:       117 mins.


Viewed at the Broadway Screening Room
EVENING
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

novel Evening which chronicled a woman at the
end of her life who looks back on a defining
moment, much to the consternation of her
children. Minot initially took a pass at adapting
the book for the screen but reached an impasse
with producers who brought in another respected
"name," Michael Cunningham, to have a go at
the material. Minot reportedly signed off on the
choice and retained a co-author credit as well as
sharing executive producer credit with
Cunningham.

Frankly, I was a bit concerned when I heard that
Cunningham was involved. I was extremely
disappointed in his adaptation of his novel
A
HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD and wasn't
sure what to expect. Minot's novel is somewhat
interior and had a large cast of characters. The
on screen results, though, are fairly strong.
Although I had some issues with the film's
structure -- which shifts in time from the
present where an elderly woman (Vanessa
Redgrave) is on her deathbed and some fifty
years earlier when she recalls what she
considers a defining moment in her life. It
amuses me to hear other reviewers carp over
the idea that someone would fixate on what
they consider a slight tale. Some would have
the woman review her entire life, including her
failed marriages. What these people seem to be
missing is that sometimes events that others
may consider insignificant are what shape our
lives and affect our decisions.
L to R: Claire Danes as Ann and Mamie Gummer as Lila in
Lajos Koltai's
EVENING, a Focus Features release

Photo: Gene Page
© 2007 Focus Features Inc. All rights reserved.
L to R: Meryl Streep as Lila and Vanessa Redgrave as Ann
in Lajos Koltai's
EVENING, a Focus Features release

Photo: Gene Page
© 2007 Focus Features Inc. All rights reserved.