Susan Minot's novel of a dying woman's remembrance of a "man that got away" is visually resplendent, but less narratively magnetic in its lower-budgeted translation to the silver screen.
Evening is a collaboration of talent behind and in front of the camera that looks to summon fond memories of films like Fried Green Tomatoes, The Notebook, The Bridges of Madison County, and even The Hours, whose writer Michael Cunningham here collaborates on the screenplay with Minot. It may seem like a sequel to Cunningham's tome given the presence of some of Stephen Daldry's accomplished actresses on view.
The fabulous cast and technical package sure to draw mothers and daughters, especially those over 40, features real-life mothers and daughters Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson (remember The Parent Trap remake with Lindsay Lohan and Widow's Peak) as well as Meryl Streep and Mamie Gummer.
Evening deliberately is juxtaposed between two time periods in Rhode Island, the last days of Redgrave's Ann Lord in a lush, artistic home, and the Newport wedding she was the maid of honor for at a lovely scenic cliffside residence almost 50 years earlier.
In her mind Ann relives that memorable weekend in New England with her daughters Constance (Richardson) and troubled Nina (Toni Collette) trying to ease the pain. Nina's personal life has brought her to a similar state that her mother was once at which led her to a life of "waste and failure". It's sort of an elliptical connection, since Nina and her mother really aren't on the same wavelength as Hungarian director Lajos Koltai (Fateless) offers the audience.
The young Ann is portrayed by the comely Claire Danes seeing the bride, Lila Wittenborn (Gummer) really enamored with longtime family friend Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson, remembered from The Phantom of the Opera). Not the supposed engagement to her "true love". And, Ann soon becomes intimately drawn to this handsome fellow.
As Harris consumes her memories during Ann's last moments, Hugh Dancy's Buddy makes an impact at the wedding. The impetuous, hard drinking brother of Lila really changes Ann's complexion, especially when it comes him and Harris.
With Koltai's impressive background in cinematography, the technical contributions are of a high order, but the focus of the story and its connective tissue doesn't resonate from the impact of a wedding where tragedy occurred. Most notably, when it concerns the motives surrounding the relationships and loves of the generations.
Glenn Close and Eileen Atkins offer support as Lila's somewhat distant mother, and a godmother-like, omniscient night nurse, respectively. And, the iconic Meryl Streep turns up in an extended cameo as an elder Lila to add some grace to the proceedings.
Evening really has no significant payoff in an overwrought, if glorious display of how one can learn from life's mistakes. Richardson and Collette are very good as the daughters, but the estimable Redgrave isn't as vibrant as one hopes given her point of view in steering the course of the flashbacking action. Another case and point of a rich, coherent source given so much starpower that unfortunately has a selective, limited scope to it that leaves the magic of the angst and the dilemmas unfulfilling.