'Evening' is a terminally slow-paced, ill-conceived adaptation of the Susan Minot novel by 'The Hours' novelist Michael Cunningham. With the quality of the source material and an impressive ensemble cast, at first glance 'Evening' looks like a promising prospect. Yet despite the array of acting talent available, it plods along unexcitingly for a bloated two hours and is let down by the clumsy script and patchy performances.
Directed by Hungarian cinematographer-turned-director Lajos Koltai, the film is distinctly florid in visual style. He uses warm and dusky light, and magical scenes involving CGI butterflies to give the story an almost fairytale feel.
The film flicks between the present day and 1950s New England, as Ann Lord (Redgrave) reminisces on a defining romance from her deathbed. In flashback scenes we see a young, raven haired Ann, played by an inappropriately cast Claire Danes, as she attends her best friend Lila's (Gummer) swanky wedding.
Ann is a bohemian New York type, completely out of sync with the decidedly upper class people that are attending the wedding. She aligns herself with Lila's brother Buddy, played overzealously by Hugh Dancy, a hard drinking boy who harbours a none-too-secret desire for Danes.
But her attentions are elsewhere, captured by the elusive Harris (Wilson), a handsome doctor and son of the family's former housekeeper. He has also stolen Lila's heart, but for fear of angering her mother, she is marrying a man who she does not love.
Ann embarks on a brief but tragic romance with Harris, the highlight of which is an unbearably cheesy scene as they name stars after one another.
Danes is perennially awkward onscreen, her character is supposed to be quirky and offbeat, but the hand-wringing and head-dipping that Danes employs to show this become all too annoying as the film wears on. Coupled with laboured, cringe worthy dialogue she is an altogether unsympathetic character.
Meryl Streep lights up the screen briefly as a present day Lila; her real-life daughter plays the young Lila. This is among the only believable casting choices. Danes and Redgrave look nothing like one another, and the suspension of disbelief extends to the casting of Ann's daughters, Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson, who make even more unconvincing sisters.
But this gripe is minor compared to the sheer lack of passion that characterises the film. It supposedly impresses the importance of living for the moment and following true love, but it fails to inspire much emotion beyond apathy. It draws to its inevitable conclusion with the same flat emotion that makes the film a bore to watch.