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Byline: Glenn Whipp

Film Critic

The turgid weeper "Evening" is all about feelings. And since it was co-written by the man who gave us "The Hours," these feelings aren't about, say, the fleeting pleasures you receive from eating a really good ice cream cone, or holding your child's hand as you take a walk by the ocean.

No. Everyone in "Evening" is battling feelings of regret and loss, feelings of woe or, as Morris Albert put it all those years ago, "feelings, whoa-whoa-whoa, feeeeeelings."

Feelings. Woe. Exactly. "Evening" is the feel-bad movie of the year, maybe the decade, maybe of eternity. It's about feeling regret and talking about it and talking about it and then, for good measure, talking about it some more. There are more speeches in this movie than you'd hear at a convention of envelope-stuffers, only the content here, for all of its pseudo-intellectual burnish, isn't nearly as interesting.

"And now, the end is near. And so I face the final curtain." Like the singer of "My Way" (another song that should have been on the soundtrack), Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) is on her deathbed, looking back and remembering a life that's had "its share of losing." Her two unpleasant, grown daughters -- self-satisfied family gal Constance (Natasha Richardson) and terminally unhappy Bohemian chick Nina (Toni Collette) -- wait for her last breath and puzzle over her fever-dream ramblings.

Who is this Harris that mother calls her "only love"? And what about this Buddy? Did mom really kill him? Director Lajos Koltai jerks us back in time -- and then forward and back, forward and back -- a rhythmic process that attempts to evoke the fleeting nature of time and the vagaries of memory but only succeeds in unnecessarily complicating what is in fact a simple romance straight from the Harlequin playbook.

Harris (Patrick Wilson) is the handsome doctor who the young Ann (Claire Danes) fell for while acting as a bridesmaid for old-money rich girl Lila (Mamie Gummer), who has had the hots for Harris since she was, like, 15 -- only when she kissed Harris, he didn't kiss her back, so, oh well and boo hoo. Harris does kiss Ann back, much to the consternation of Lila's sweaty, drunk brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy), who loves both Harris and Ann.

Buddy's closeted homosexuality is but one of a million character details that goes missing in the way Michael Cunningham ("The Hours") and Susan Minot adapt Minot's dream-like novel. Issues of class and money are touched upon trivially, though never explored. Characters are types, not people, existing mostly just to open emotional veins and frown.

The biggest head-scratcher is Harris, who's the first to admit that he's "not that much fun." You know what Ann sees in him; Kate Winslet saw the same thing when Wilson did his hunka-hunka thing in "Little Children." But it's a long leap from a wedding-party quickie to a "Gone With the Wind" epic romance, and frankly, it's hard to give a damn here.

And what of the cast, which also includes Meryl Streep, Glenn Close and Eileen Atkins and has the novelty of pairing two sets of mothers and daughters (Redgrave and Richardson, Streep and Gummer)? They have their moments, particularly Streep in what's essentially a cameo and Danes, who does her level-headed best to remain strong when surrounded by silliness.

But the moments are fleeting. "It all went by so fast," Redgrave's Ann moans at one point. If only, Ann. If only.

Glenn Whipp, (818) 713-3672

EVENING - One and one half stars

(PG-13: sexual material, brief violence, depression)

Starring: Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Toni Collette.

Director: Lajos Koltai.

Running time: 1 hr. 57 min.

Playing: In wide release.

In a nutshell: Woman on deathbed dredges up regrets, as does everyone around her in a turgid weeper that will engender regret in its paying audience as well.




Real-life daughter and mother Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave take their relationship to the screen in the emotionally draining film "Evening."
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 29, 2007

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