'Evening' fails to gain traction

"Evening," based on the Susan Minot novel of the same name, is beautifully photographed. And no question that it is well-acted. In fact, it's stuffed with talent. Likely it's a generalization to say that movies that are star-studded usually don't work, but it seems to be the case and "Evening" is no exception.

Both Vanessa Redgrave and Claire Danes share a character, as do Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer. Hence most of the film straddles the 1950s (wonderfully recreated) and real time.

In the opening setup, Redgrave, portraying Ann, lies in her sick bed, nearing the end of her life. She dreamily remembers her youth, and all those who played memorable roles. When she wakes, however briefly, from her morphine-induced reveries, she struggles to recall where she is, and unable to recognize her two daughters, played by Natashe Richardson and Toni Collette. The past, which comes to her as far more lucid than the present, reminds her of many deep and abiding regrets. "Mistakes" she calls them, meaning choices made that did not reflect her most closely held desires, but compromises that she made for reasons that now seem inconsequential.

For all of the talent represented in "Evening," the essential story can't be rescued. While mildly interesting, it never gains traction. At the center is a society wedding, held in a beautiful Newport home on a bluff overlooking the Atlantic. Actually, a wedding can be a nice filmmaking device &

ceremonies (as well as funerals) bringing together a quilt of people, many arriving with gifts and personal baggage. And while the relationships of those in the "Evening" wedding party are sorted out, none are found to be all that interesting. When the film returns to real time, and focuses on the sepia-toned bedroom of Redgrave, that also seems incidental, even ethereal.

Perhaps the essence of this film is that try as we might to reconstruct days long past, all is viewed through a haze of time, distorted by our desire to revise and obscure what was. So how to evaluate the past, how to judge events, for unlike film, we can't hit rewind and relive life as it actually was, only as we remember it. That may be a truth that has resonance, but it's not enough to sustain a two hour film, at least not this one.

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