(No longer in theaters)
Jeff Sharp, John N. Hart
Jun 29, 2007
Cinematographers like to gush about the magic hour—near sunset or sunrise, when the light burnishes instead of bruises. Everything in Evening has that magic-hour glow. Vanessa Redgrave plays Ann, a woman dying of cancer in her bedroom, floating between the present and the past. The light makes her look pretty good, though. She tells her daughter (Toni Collette), “You look peaked”—but her daughter looks positively rosy. In the past, Ann is Claire Danes, who shows up for the wedding of a friend in a baronial beach house where life is a perpetual sunset. But a burnish is not what this movie needed. The film is based on a novel by Susan Minot—one of those books where the author doesn’t deign to put dialogue in quotation marks for fear of dispelling the dreamlike mood. It works on paper, but Minot, who shares credit for the adaptation with fellow novelist Michael Cunningham, doesn’t understand that screenwriting is the art of taking away. People here don’t just talk too much; they say, “There’s something I have to tell you” first. Evening only bestirs itself when Meryl Streep in old-lady makeup pays Redgrave a visit: The way these two great actresses breathe the same air and adjust their rhythms to each other seems almost holy.
Mamie Gummer, Streep’s daughter, plays her as a young woman, and they have the same lilt and the same singular nose. But Danes and Redgrave are a howling disconnect. It’s not just that their features don’t match, it’s that they embody two different styles of acting: one coquettish, darting, playful; the other transparent, guileless, a little blah (in this context). It’s the closest thing in Evening to a real existential crisis.