Evening

An Illusion Review by Joan Ellis


            Poor opening reviews have done nothing to deter audiences from filling theaters wherever “Evening” is playing (don’t look for it at the multiplex). Once again we see that movie lovers are often happy just to soak up the performances of fine actors even in a mediocre vehicle. This vehicle is indeed mediocre, but look who’s on hand: Vanessa Redgrave and her own daughter Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep (very briefly) and her daughter Mamie Gummer, Glenn Close, Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Eileen Atkins.

            If the actors are first rate and the premise a good one, then you know it has to be the script that diminishes the movie. The dialogue, to be charitable, is ordinary. As Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) lies dying in her bed, her mind has returned to a long ago weekend when she was a bridesmaid to Lila (Mamie Gummer). During the wedding weekend it becomes clear that both women are in love with Harris (Patrick Wilson). Lila’s brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) is in love with both Harris and Ann. Everyone loves Harris. In other words, we have a soap opera. Don’t bother trying to keep straight maiden and married names or young and old actors playing the same person. Just keep your eye on the bouncing ball – the Redgraves and the Streeps – and enjoy an acting holiday for mothers and daughters.

            The family has gathered for Lila’s wedding in her family’s summer cottage in Newport. The movie begins with great promise as Ann and Buddy dance through the bright rooms and porches of the cottage – one of the hugely open, shingled places that welcomed family and friends in a pre-war world. As they dance through these wonderful rooms, neither we, nor the guests, are ever without a view of the water.

            As so many of these places were, this one is owned by a WASP family, the Winterborns. Glenn Close, as Mrs. Winterborn, mother of the bride, is one of the few actors who can play a WASP with credibility. We can read her mind only through her eyes. Mamie Gummer plays the reluctant bride throughout the flashbacks, and appreciative laughter ripples through the audience when she morphs into Meryl Streep as the film moves to present day – the physical resemblance is endearingly comical. Watch her as she dresses for her honeymoon with the wrong man in a WASP suit complete with pearls and a gold lapel pin. Credit Claire Danes with a fine performance as the young Ann, the awkward outsider who finds her ground quickly.

            The movie builds to the reunion of the dying Ann and her bridesmaid, Lila, but when it comes, it’s too short and enigmatic at best. Imagine Redgrave and Streep digging into real dialogue. This is a melodrama that really doesn’t go anywhere. With a good script in hand this cast could touch us all. Having unloaded all this negativity, I can only say that I’m still very glad I went.
 


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