Evening Lajos Koltai

Evening Lajos Koltai
A chick flick in all possible aspects, and a showy set piece for much of the old and new Hollywood gynocracies, Evening tells the parallel stories of Ann (Vanessa Redgrave), an elderly woman on her death bed and of a particularly fraught, destiny-altering day in her young adulthood. A selling point of the production is the multi-generational (but disorienting) stunt casting: Redgrave’s real-life daughter (Natasha Richardson) plays one of Ann’s present day daughters, while ’50s Ann is played by Claire Danes. Ann’s best friend Lila is played in the ’50s by Mamie Gummer, whose ’50s mother is played not by real-life mother Meryl Streep — who gets a cameo as present-day Lila — but by Glenn Close, a disconcertingly accurate look-alike. Further inspection reveals an additional layer of obfuscation: co-screenwriter Michael Cunningham also wrote The Hours, one of whose characters was Virginia Woolf, who once wrote a novel called Mrs. Dalloway, made into a 1997 movie that also starred Vanessa Redgrave, again as an elderly woman looking back on a particular halcyon day. (Which is to say that without either an IMDB scorecard or a good whiskey, there will be consternation.) Danes, effectively the lead, gives her default performance as the "knowing bohemian” with "hidden depth.” Hugh Dancy is much better as Lila’s brother, the sodden, Byronically-tousled Buddy, an unhappy subscriber to several of those loves that daren’t speak their names. Everyone else is generally fine, with the mild exception of Patrick Wilson, a bit of a cipher as the fulcrum of both the youthful romantic upset and of Ann’s hard-to-parse latter-day ramblings. Boasting as it does so many of the indicia of Merchant Ivory-esque prestige, Evening doesn’t bite as deeply as it should. The vectors of tragedy are too obvious, and the contemporary scenes, tasked with elucidating how "in the moment” choices are refracted through, or echoed by, subsequent generations, feel secondary and tacked-on. When, at the end, Streep offers, "we are mysterious creatures, aren’t we; and at the end, so much of it turns out not to matter,” she’s too perspicacious for comfort. Evening has no commentary track but, perhaps to compensate, has two "making ofs”: "Adapting Evening,” a private love-in for the screenwriters, and "One Weekend by the Sea,” a more traditional "behind the scenes” piece featuring the standard diet of actors declaiming on larger themes as if especially qualified to do so ex officio. The deleted scenes are more helpful than usual, fleshing out in particular Ann’s middle age, which is otherwise under-explored. (Alliance Films)