What's the difference between slasher films and chick flicks? In slasher films they suffer less, and they die quicker. Evening, bless its banal heart, is a chick flick in all its fatuous glory.
Evening has a stellar cast, which includes some of the finest actresses on the screen today. And it has actual mothers and daughters Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson plus Merle Streep and her offspring Mamie Gummer.
But Evening doesn't have a single dramatic scene that is memorable. There are several unmemorable moments, such as Glenn Close collapsing like a slashed banshee. It comes straight from the back of a Hormel can.
Evening is like estrogen left in the sun too long; it's curdled.
Evening is the plodding story of a woman, Ann, (Vanessa Redgrave) on her deathbed with memories of the past. She keeps saying, "Where's Harris?" -- which is a chick flick equivalent of "Where's Waldo?"
It seems Harris (Patrick Wilson) was the love of her life. But her two daughters, who hover about her deathbed, have never heard of Harris before.
We keep flashing back to Ann's younger days when she attended the high-toned wedding of her best friend Lila (Mamie Gummer). The past and present make a timeless hodgepodge.
The script by Susan Minot and Michael Cunningham (there's that ham again), from a novel by Minot, is writerly, with allusions to Gatsby, Hemingway and Dickens. But the forced and obvious allusions only serve to show the pretention of the screenplay.
The characters speak dreadful lines, such as Ann's "a baby is a wonderful thing," or the night nurse's, "nice hair is nice." At one point Constance (Natasha Richardson) says, "bad choice of words," in a salient comment on the screenplay.
But the worst is the moral. Is it "I think we did what we had to do"? Or "There's no such thing as a mistake"? Either way, it's vapid.
The horde of actresses has to trek across this desert of a screenplay. Hardly any of them survive with their wits intact.
Vanessa Redgrave plays the dying Ann as a phantasmagoric crone. Claire Danes frowns a lot and smiles with embarrassment, as she portrays Ann as a young woman. Glenn Close is no way near to a characterization as the bride's mother. Barry Bostwick scowls all the way through in the thankless part of the father. He obviously knows better.
Natasha Richardson and Toni Collette get in each other's way as Ann's two confused daughters. They're two actresses in desperate search of motivation.
High Dancy is one of the most boring drunks in movie history as Lila's bibulous brother. Patrick Wilson is handsome as Waldo.
It's a joyless cast.
The director is Hungarian Lajos Koltai, who was cinematographer on The Emperor's Club (2002). Enough said.
Evening opens with a languid shot of the young Ann lying languidly on something above water. One of the first lines is Ann saying, "Your first mistake is like your first kiss. You never forget it." We know early it's going to be A Long Day's Journey into Evening.
At about the 90 minute mark, just when it seems the film is about to end, Merle Streep, as old Lila, appears. She climbs into bed with Ann, and they wax philosophical. Shortly afterwards, she leaves in a cab. Nobody in the movie called it. I did. I wanted her out of there.
Evening is just another movie that wastes talented actresses.
It is baffling when Ann pontificates, "There's no such thing as a mistake."
Yes, there is. See this movie.
For a change of pace, you might want to listen to interviews that I conducted in the 70s and 80s, some of which were published in my book Voices from the Set: The Film Heritage Interviews (2000).
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