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"Evening"

Directed by Lajos Koltai.
Written by Susan Minot and Michael Cunningham.  Based on the novel by Susan Minot.
Starring Claire Danes, Patrick Wilson, Toni Collette and Vanessa Redgrave.
Release Year:  2007
Review Date:  6/30/07

Folks--

Make no mistake--I really wanted to see "Evening", due to a great trailer for the film that just had a great ciinematic look to it; directed by a cinematographer-turned-director, and featuring a number of truly great actresses, I didn't want to pass up a freebie that I had for this last Thursday despite the fact that I was dog-tired from a long work day.

So, it is with great regret that despite my excitement coming into this, "Evening" was a major disappointment.  Not because it was bad--it was so-so--but because with the pedigree of the players on the table, I expected "Oscar front-runner" and I got "run-of-the-mill flashback drama."  Vanessa Redgrave stars as Ann, a woman of advancing age (my lovely girlfriend Meg works at a non-profit for the elderly and I need to be careful of how I describe "old folks") who is having serious health issues; she spends her days in bed randomly spouting out lines that occurred during her past, and for whatever reason, in her dying days, she is mostly spouting lines from a particular weekend from her youth when she had a fling with a doctor named Harris (Patrick Wilson) at the wedding of her best friend, Lila (played in flashback by Mamie Gummer).  So, whammo, we get to go back to that weekend too, and watch as Lila struggles with marrying a man she doesn't love, Ann (played in flashback by Claire Danes) struggles with helping her friend while learning that who Lila really loves is Harris, who she herself is looking to get her hooks into...and, on top of all that, Ann is trying to keep her friend Buddy (Hugh Dancy) to STAY a friend, since Buddy wants Ann to one day be his wife.

And, in the present, we get to watch Ann's grown daughters (played by Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson) struggle with their family and dating relationships too...maybe all of this was too involved for me, but I don't think that was it since the story and what happens in the end is all foreshadowed very well by writer Susan Minot (who wrote both the original novel and this film's screenplay with the guy who wrote "The Hours" a couple of years ago).  No, I think that the problem here is that while the film looks good, I never truly got engaged in the lives of the characters...I never really cared about what happened to Ann--young OR old--and, I was surprised at how easily Lily takes her new husband in, despite the fact that she doesn't love him...maybe it would have helped to learn more about either Lily or the sap she was about to marry?  Glenn Close--and, I can't say this very often--is SEVERELY underutilized as Lily's mother; Meryl Streep appears in a cameo at the end, and it is brilliant.  Wilson has proven he can be a fantastic character actor (as evidenced by his work in "Hard Candy" and "Little Children"), but here, he's useless; alternately, Dancy's work as the lover scorned is more effective even if his character was ultimately more annoying to me.

You see, "Evening" is quite the up-and-down affair, and much like older Ann's confinement to a bed during her health issues, I felt confined to my seat in a way that became a Justin-keeps-looking-at-his-watch way in the film's final 30 minutes.  Boy, this film felt long!  I think it truly is because I didn't care about the characters; otherwise, "Evening" is passable.  Just not Oscar-worthy, and that is a big surprise to me.  You can throw all of the former Oscar nominees into the pot if you want, but ultimately, the cast needs to work well together and in this film, I don't think they do.  Honestly, the cast of "Knocked Up" works better, WAY better, than the cast of "Evening" does as a whole, and I wish I could figure out why!  (I will say this, though--LOVED the ending of "Evening."  Very well done.)

Rating:  Matinee

 

Comments?  Drop me a line at justin@bellviewmovies.com.

 

Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too bad...man, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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The "fine print":
All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/bellviewmovies.com except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09