Thursday, September 20, 2007

Movie Review: 'Evening'

How often are we presented with a story of fleeting glances turned to intense moments of passion, with our protagonists caught up in a world where their love cannot survive against the odds dictated by the world around them? Following my viewing of 'Evening' I can offer an answer of at least once too often. Based on the novel of the same name written by Susan Minot, the film is littered with a cast of established and trustworthy players, the only problem being not one plays or portrays an appealing character the audience can root for. The story is set around a woman, Ann, in the fading days of her life, revisiting an ill-fated weekend during which she attends the nuptials of her college friend. Played respectively by Vanessa Redgrave and Claire Danes, a sense of forboding is established from the off, as we follow Ann back into the events of that weekend as her grown daughters (Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson) sit by her bed trying to decipher the elderly lady's ramblings as well as the lives they will be left with on her passing. As premises go, it doesn't inspire confidence, either in the originality or potential stakes.

Tragic love needs to convince and while their is no doubt as to its inevitability in the paint by numbers story there is never a spark of credible rapport between Ann and Harris, played by Danes and Patrick Wilson. While Danes plays the most evolved character she lacks consistency, making decisions and reprimands that may have made sense in the overall story of the novel but here seem the strung together actions of a self-centred and blinded person. The elderly Ann is even less impressive a person, swooning after a boy in her final hours. Reflecting is all good and well, however the boy in question never resembles the enigmatic solid man we would expect to be the cause of such an instant attraction, however impeccably tanned and able an actor Wilson is. The most telling scene in the entire movie is a scene in which Meryl Streep’s character looks pitifully on her ailing friend – this variance in perspectives gives new insight to the story of that weekend. As for each cut away to the modern story, they feel like pointless intrusions of soap opera dialogue and 'Oirish' night nurses. Flawed characters often draw demand the audience’s attention and earn our empathy, the people at play here however seem untrue, more so people put in place to deliver dialogue which propels a weak story forward.

As for the story, there are glaciers which move faster. The slow, lamentable rambling pace of the movie, coupled with the already sombre tone means there is no energy on screen, at one point I honestly groaned at how long it took Toni Collette to walk into a room. A picture postcard, rustic setting is somehow muted and uninspiring with such milquetoast performances going on in the foreground. The gorgeous settings for the movie if anything only add to the sense of detachment from anything onscreen. There are noble intentions, and apt ideas raised as these women reflect on mistakes they may have made in an attempt to make peace with them. However none of the delivery resonates or has any level of insight to indicate we are watching anything more that an over long lazily plotted soap.

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