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Thursday, April 8, 2010
Books And Other Arts Film Review: Evening
Movie Poster Image Courtesy of Wikimedia and QuentinX ******************************************************** So much talent, so many famous names and such a long, long, long movie to tell a tale that really should not be that complicated. Rest assured, you're going to recognize everyone in the cast. Also recognize there is no bad acting by anyone at all in this film. However the film seems to take an enormous amount of time even given it "flashes back" in time to the 1950's.
Ann Grant Lord (Vanessa Redgrave), a former cabaret singer, is gravely ill and on her deathbed, attended by her two alternatingly loving and warring daughters, Constance (the late Natasha Richardson, Redgrave's real-life daughter) and Nina (Toni Collette, whom I'd like to nominate for worst onscreen hairstyle ever in the history of cinema). Heavily medicated, Ann drifts in and out of consciousness, and in her dream-states, she drifts back to incidences in a summer in the 1950's, when she served as maid of honor to her best friend Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer portrays the young Lila, and Claire Danes portrays the young Ann Grant) at Lila's family's summer home in Newport.
Ann, as a college friend of Lila and her younger brother, Buddy, seems out of her element among the wealthy. Her rather bohemian dress and hairstyle contrast with the preppy clothes, house and friends the Wittenborns embody. Glenn Close and Barry Bostwick portray the well-born, well-heeled Wittenborn parents to perfection. Much is made of the fact that Ann will be singing a song at the bride's request at the wedding reception. I'm still not sure WHY so much is made of this, and the best I can come up with is that the song selection, "Time After Time" is a little wink at us because the film flashes back and forth from this era of the 1950's to the present day.
Buddy (Hugh Dancy, with an American accent and boyish good looks) introduces Ann to Harris. It seems as though everyone loves Harris, and I do mean everyone. Today in loose company I think Harris could qualify as a man-whore. Lila has been in love with him since she was a teenager, Buddy is in love with him, and soon Ann falls under his rather bewildering spell. As Harris, Patrick Wilson is surely a great-looking guy, but I frankly couldn't understand his wide appeal to what seemed to be half of Newport. All that's revealed about him is that he's handy with a boat, is the son of one of the Wittenborns' servants, became a doctor and practices medicine in the small town where he grew up.
In events leading up to the wedding, Buddy becomes more and more inebriated to the point that "YOU KNOW SOMETHING BAD WILL HAPPEN". Ann literally clutches her stomach on the way back to the Wittenborns the morning after the wedding and says this much to Harris. And of course something bad does happen and leaves a void in all of their lives.
Back in the present, Constance and Nina are perplexed about Ann's mutterings and murmurings during her semi-consciousness and take stabs at each other, too for their different natures. Constance is apparently a model of stability and success, a career woman (in what field we have no clue) who's married with 2 chidren, and lives a short distance from Ann. Nina, of course, by contrast, is seen as flightly and non-commital, despite the fact her boyfriend Luc has accompanied her on the trip to see her dying mother. Meryl Streep turns in an interesting performance as the "present-day" Lila, who comes to see her dying friend and reminisce with her.
The scenery was gorgeous, filmed on location in Newport. The costuming was pretty much on the mark, very tastefully done. There are bittersweet notes in viewing Natasha Richardson onscreen, of course, since her tragic and unexpected death. Needless to say she makes a very convincing appearance in loving daughter Constance. And despite the bittersweet, the one very joyful note about the film is that it was the vehicle for the meeting of Claire Danes and Hugh Dancy who have since wed. But as a whole it was a too-long film, and the plot was a bit of an inexplicable mess. So much talent, so little for them to do, and such a shame.