At the beginning of Evening, Ann Lord, in a morphine haze on her deathbed, tells her daughters, “Harris and I killed Buddy.” Her daughters Constance and Nina have no idea who these two men are and, in a series of flashbacks, Ann’s secret is revealed.
Be warned, this is a very slow movie – about 10 out of 50 people at Saturday’s advance screening walked out early – and really, it’s not much of a secret. However, some of us don’t mind slow movies, and this one has some rich rewards.
Director Lajos Koltai, also a distinguished cinematographer, has an eye for beautiful compositions, and there’s some spectacular stunt casting. Ann and Constance are played by real-life mother and daughter Vanessa Redgrave and Natasha Richardson, and Ann’s best friend Lila is played by Meryl Streep in the present, and Streep’s daughter Mamie Gummer in the flashbacks.
The movie opens with Ann, a struggling singer from New York, arriving in Newport for Lila’s wedding to a man she’s not in love with. Ann is welcomed by Lila’s brother Buddy, a young alcoholic playboy who eventually proposes to her. The problem is Buddy’s best friend Harris. Everybody is in love with Harris: Lila, Buddy (yes, a closet case) and, soon enough, Ann.
As he’s played by two-time Tony nominee Patrick Wilson (Angels In America’s gay Mormon, Little Children’s “prom king”), you might fall in love with him too. He lights up the screen in his every scene, none more so than his duet with Claire Danes (as the younger Ann) at Lila’s wedding.
With such a high-powered cast, he has formidable competition. Though Redgrave is a bit of a ham and Hugh Dancy flounders somewhat as Buddy, Glenn Close is unforgettable as Lila’s mother. Toni Collette is convincing as Nina, and Mamie Gummer takes after her mother not just in looks but in acting talent.
Those walk-outs on Saturday missed Meryl Streep’s performance. She has only one scene, in Evening’s final 15 minutes, and it’s worth the wait – almost a masterclass in technique. Recommended for mature audiences.