Thursday, June 28, 2007


The late great film critic Gene Siskel had a simple standard he held all films to when he judged whether or not they were worth seeing. He would simply ask himself, “Is this film more or less interesting than watching the same people (the actors in the film) eat dinner?” Well, according to that criteria, and others, Evening is a real letdown.

The untold story of Ann Grant (Claire Danes) is told to us through a series of flashbacks to the 1950’s and a fateful weekend which changed her life forever. Balanced against the past events is the present where a much older Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying and being cared for by her two daughters, the responsible married mother Constance (Natasha Richardson) and the spirited screw-up Nina (Toni Collette). The pair seem to only agree on one thing, that they don’t agree.

The balance of the film is odd, as much of the middle of the film is one long flashback ignoring the life and death struggle of Ann, and the individual struggles of her daughters. The whole set-up seems strange as we are allowed to view Ann’s past, but her daughters are not. Ann doesn’t tell them the story of her life; she only dreams it in her drug induced state. Also troubling is the drama unfolding in the present, which finally comes to fruition in the films closing moments, is much more interesting than any of the flashbacks.

This film feels like a book which was adapted by someone unwilling to accept the necessary changes in the format. The story may work well in the original novel by Susan Minot, but comes off here unfocused and more than a tad boring on screen.

Even with these problems there are several nice performances, mostly by the women in the cast including Danes, Collette, Regrave, and Mamie Gummer. Glenn Close and Meryl Streep also stop by in what are little more than cameos with little to no impact on the main plot of the film. One huge casting fault is to cast a pair of leading men in Patrick Wilson and Hugh Dancy who are about as exciting as watching paint dry. No, paint drying would be a party to these guys. Nor do either fit their roles particularily well, though the each give a respectable performance. Dancy, as the madcap alcoholic, provides some cheap laughs but is impossible to take seriously, and nothing about Wilson’s character gives us any clue to why the women find him so charming or desirable.

A final note about the script which calls for Danes’ character to be a nightclub singer. Danes’ has a nice enough voice, but hardly one that would generate the oohs and ahhs she receives when performing or would allow her to make a career out of doing so. The flashbacks are meant to imply she was a good singer who never made it because of her life’s tragedies, but due to Danes limited singing ability it comes off quite differently.

Evening isn’t a bad film, and I have no doubt that there will be many who will look past its obvious flaws and enjoy the movie for the strong female performances and the overall style and look at the film. I appreciate both, but no film this drab and boring, no matter how well dressed or performed, is one I can recommend. Although I enjoyed moments in the film, mostly in the final twenty-five minutes, overall I was left with a sense of disappointment and regret that the film couldn’t find a way to engage me in any real way.

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