Evening Review
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This new drama, based on the novel by Susan Minot, promises an all-star cast and a three-hankie story. While it sounds like the ultimate chick flick, though, it falls surprisingly short on emotion.

At Evening’s center is Ann (Vanessa Redgrave), an elderly woman who’s on her deathbed. As her grown daughters, Constance (Natasha Richardson) and Nina (Toni Collette), gather at her bedside, Ann starts talking about people and events they’ve never heard about. She especially talks about Harris—her great love…and her greatest mistake. While Constance shrugs it off as the delirious ramblings of a dying woman, Nina tries to find out more. And as Ann comes and goes, she looks back on the one weekend, decades ago, that changed her life.

That weekend, Ann (played by Claire Danes), a singer in New York, traveled to Newport for her best friend’s wedding. Lila (Mamie Gummer) is supposed to marry a man who’s perfectly acceptable for her family, but her younger brother, Buddy (Hugh Dancy), wants Ann to stop the wedding—because she’s not in love with him. He claims that Lila is in love with Harris (Patrick Wilson), their former maid’s son. But once Ann meets Harris, she finds herself falling for him.

Despite the potentially tear-jerking premise of a dying woman looking back on her life and the loss of her one great love, Evening left me completely dry-eyed. Perhaps that’s because it’s so busy flaunting its all-star cast that it forgets to fully develop any of their characters. That’s not to say that the cast isn’t spectacular; it is. Evening is all about the women—and each one gives a strong performance (though I can’t exactly say the same for all of the men). The problem, however, is that there may just be too many stars—too many talented actresses vying for meaty, Oscar-worthy roles. And that ends up watering down the real story.

Had Evening been all about Ann—and maybe even Lila—it could have been much more powerful. Instead, we get scenes between the daughters—and a subplot involving Nina’s unexpected pregnancy and her reluctance to settle down and commit to a man she’s not totally sure she loves. And in the midst of everything else that’s going on, the audience never really gets to know much about Ann—which makes it hard to really care about her. We know even less about Harris. Sure, he’s cute (and he’s a doctor), but nothing in his few brief scenes with Ann explains why she’d fall madly in love with him—or why she’d spend the rest of her life pining for him. We see very little of their fleeting relationship—definitely not enough to make it seem like anything more than a weekend fling or a passing crush. And while we’re told that it was supposed to be something special and life-changing, we never really see that—and we surely don’t feel it.

Unfortunately, the same is often the case throughout the movie—it tells, but it never really shows. It preaches its point without using the story to prove it. In the end, that weakens the message and its emotional impact. So despite the extraordinary cast and a few touching moments, Evening never really comes together—and that makes it hard to love.

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