Friday, August 7, 2009

Evening (2007)

Whenever we have the opportunity for an extended visit, my mother and I enjoy watching DVDs together. We call it our "movie marathon" and the films often include those that I missed when they first came out but which my mom saw and wanted to share with me. Earlier in the summer we settled down with cold drinks and popcorn to view Evening, directed by Hungarian cinematographer Lajos Koltai. Luckily, I did not read the reviews first because then I would have refused to see the film no matter how much mom raved about it. Most of the reviews were devastatingly negative, so that when I did get around to reading some, I felt almost guilty that about liking the movie so much.

Not only was Evening artfully filmed but interestingly included the pairing of mother and daughter actresses, such as Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter the late Natasha Richardson, as well as Meryl Streep and her daughter Mamie Gummer. Glenn Close plays the mother of the bride; part of the film swirls around the preparations for a high society wedding. (I admit to a weakness for films about weddings, having done some wedding planning in the past.) Hugh Darcy is perfect as the alcoholic son of the family whose inner conflicts and drunken behavior leads to disaster, blighting the lives of the other characters. Patrick Wilson portrays the heroine Ann's lost love, whom she cannot get over, even though her eventual idealization of him far surpasses the reality.

According to Variety:

After making his directing debut in 2005 with the strikingly beautiful Holocaust drama "Fateless," Hungarian lenser-turned-helmer Lajos Koltai has sailed into decidedly tonier prestige-pic waters with his second feature -- adapted and exec produced by literary heavyweights Minot and Cunningham, and starring actresses such as Vanessa Redgrave, Glenn Close, Eileen Atkins and Meryl Streep, just for starters.

Redgrave plays aging Ann Lord, whose daughters Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette) have gathered at her bedside in her final moments. When Ann mutters a cryptic sentence amid her feverish ramblings... flashing back to a key moment in the 1950s -- as young Ann Grant (Claire Danes), an aspiring singer from New York, arrives on the coast of Rhode Island for the wedding of her friend Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer).

While at the Wittenborns' summer cottage, Ann is entranced by the mild-mannered, powerfully attractive Dr. Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson). Latter exerts a similar pull on his longtime chums Lila -- lovely, insecure and about to marry a decent man she doesn't love -- and Lila's rascally brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy), an aspiring novelist who swings from jovial high spirits to depressive bouts of drunkenness.

As Ann supports Lila through her premarital jitters and explores her attraction to Harris, and Buddy is increasingly racked by boozy fits of self-loathing, the catalysts are in place for a tragedy that becomes the defining moment of Ann's life. Her innocence shattered, she falls into a series of ill-considered (and sparsely depicted) marriages and has two girls, while her singing career flounders.

The main problem with the film is that Claire Danes plays Ann, the Vanessa Redgrave character, as a young woman. There is no way that Claire even vaguely resembles the divine Vanessa. As those of us know who grew up watching her in Camelot over and over again know, Vanessa always had a slightly wild expression in her eyes, which Claire does not have, at all. Claire is good but just not believable as a young Vanessa. Certainly they could have chosen someone else for the role of youthful Ann, someone blond with blue eyes.

The film goes back and forth between the wedding which ends in tragedy and the death scene which serves as a catalyst for healing and resolution. It broke my heart to see Natasha Richardson acting with her mother, who in the film was dying, when in reality, less than a year ago, it was the mother who watched her daughter pass away. Whatever the critics may have thought of it, Evening is a wonderful film to watch with one's mom, since motherhood is at the heart of the drama. The positive transformations, as well as the sacrifices and pains, demanded by motherhood are shown as giving purpose to the lives of the women when careers and lovers have failed or gone away. Share


Julygirl said...

A memorable film. I loved the pairings of mothers and daughters. Claire Danes did a supurb acting job, but I agree, she could not pass for a young Vanessa Redgrave...but who could?

Enjoyed the review.

Anonymous said...

Lovely review, as always. I saw this film on TV sometime this past year. I enjoyed it very much, as well.

elena maria vidal said...

Thanks, Julygirl and Gette. I'm glad you both liked it, too!