Stars, but no quality
EVENING Directed by Lajos Koltai. Starring Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, Natasha Richardson, Eileen Atkins, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Barry Bostwick 12A cert, lim release, 117 min
AT SOME point in this excruciatingly meretricious adaptation of an admired novel by Susan Minot, Vanessa Redgrave stops dying for a moment to deliver one of several half-baked cliches on the inconveniences of mortality. “Can you tell me where my life went?” she asks Eileen Atkins’s unconvincing Irish nurse.
“Where, indeed?” the audience might echo. Lasting two hours by the clock, but an aeon in the brain, Evening hungrily sucks the vitality out of you as it plods its weary way from nowhere to nowhere. Delivered in small portions, it could offer the parents of hyperactive children a safe alternative to Ritalin.
Reminiscent of cosier, less self-important weepies such as How to Make an American Quilt, Evening, adapted flatly by The Hours author Michael Cunningham, focuses on the life and death of a wealthy woman, much of whose life has been spent in some blandly beautiful maritime corner of New England.
Played in her dotage by Redgrave and in her youth by the strip of nerve tissue that is Claire Danes, Ann Grant is, it seems, troubled by having dallied too briefly with a man she could have loved. After some lurking round the deathbed, we drift back in time to find the callow Anne travelling to her friend’s wedding, where she meets a drunken writer (Hugh Dancy) and an enormously tall doctor (Patrick Wilson).
Sexualities are questioned, men psychoanalyse themselves in ways men rarely do, kisses are stolen beneath the moonlight and, gradually, we begin to understand why everybody is still so bloody miserable 50 years later.
Rarely have so many talented actresses been quite so dull in the same picture. Lajos Koltai, a talented cinematographer, here directing his second film, makes sure they stand, sit or lie in the appropriate light, but neither he nor Cunningham seems to have discovered any personalities for the performers to inhabit. Danes, Toni Collette, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close form an indistinguishable mass of whiners and mumblers, each of whom seems frightened of treading on the others’ metaphorical toes.
Only Redgrave, stubbornly flying the flag for old ham, manages to leave an impression. The fact that she manages this without leaving her bed does not, however, reflect well on the other actors.