Monday, May 26, 2008


"Evening" (Lajos Koltai, 2007) Okay, before we say anything about this movie, look at the cast--that'd be the reason people would be drawn to this movie: Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Eileen Atkins, Claire Danes, Natasha Richardson, Toni Collete. That is some heavy-duty fire-power and far eclipses the male contingent of Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy and Barry Bostwick.

Add in the stunt-casting: Natasha Richardson plays the daughter of Vanessa Redgrave's character, which should be easy to do as she's Vanessa Redgrave's daughter. Then there's Mamie Gummer, whose character's wedding is the centerpiece of the flash-backs for this film, and who is played in the present-day by Gummer's real-life mother, Meryl Streep.* All nice for a little conversation-starter at the coffee-klatsch.

But the reason to see this film is late in the proceedings: it's a scene between the two old friends played by Streep and Redgrave, both very old, and the latter, dying. And it's amazing. Redgrave is always good--surprising in how she can breathe life into any kind of scene. To see Streep and her play off of each other, is one of those rare moments of seeing two great actors at the top of their game combining their talents, even if the movie is no great shakes.** Upon finding out who her visitor is, Redgrave's arms fly out, reaching for her, a girlish gasp in delight escaping from this bed-ridden woman of no strength, but for that moment, she's young again, in memory and reality. And the two become gossipy friends again, though Streep's character is held in check somewhat by reality, and Redgrave's has no time for holding back. Great actresses. Great scene.

But the rest of the film is lacking. Whenever the film is off of Redgrave (her nurse is played by Eileen Atkins, who is Streep's counterpart in England), the film lags. Claire Danes plays the younger version in the flashbacks for the better part of the film, and though Danes can make her character dither at the drop of an impulse, that part feels soapy and over-written, and not as felt. And the present-day conflicts of the Redgrave character's children seem far less interesting than the flights of fancy of their dying mother, who flickers in and out of fantasy and reality. In the end, her obsessions are passed off as not amounting to much, though they're important to her, and the lesson of the film--there are no mistakes--comes off as hopelessly banal as saying "It is what it is."

Still, it's an impressive cast, but it's a mired chick-flick, that tested the patience of some chicks I know.

*"Nepotism," I hear you cry. And it is. Funny thing is, Gummer was cast first, and then and only then was Streep, who'd been in screenplay-writer Cunningham's "The Hours," approached to play the olde part. On the DVD, Gummer cracks: "Nice to be able to find my Mom a job!"

**I'm thinking here of DeNiro and Brando in "The Score," or Brando and George C. Scott in "The Formula," or Hepburn and Wayne in "Rooster Cogburn" or Hepburn and Fonda in "On Golden Pond." These are events couched in humble films of limited means, and it's just fun to watch legends work together, even if you have to suffer through the rest of the movie to do it.

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