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After seeing the trailer for Evening, you will probably first think about how great the cast is involved, (I mean they even got Rocky Horror’s own Brad, Barry Bostwick, to show the world he is still acting), and the next second about how they just showed us the entire movie. While not entirely true, the film is pretty much summarized nicely in the trailer, and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This is a story about a dying woman who is remembering a time very long ago when she met the love of her life—the one that got away. Her daughters hear her reminiscing about people they have never heard of and the story of what happened when she and Harris killed Buddy soon plays out. No matter what happens, though, the film is not about these people and what they do, good or bad. It is a vehicle to show that there are no mistakes in life. What may be regret could in fact be the one instance in your life that needed to occur in order for the good times that follow to ever happen.

The story itself is nicely told and very obviously adapted from literature. Our filmmakers here decide to tell the story by intercutting between the present (Ann on her deathbed), dreamstate (Ann hallucinating by combining the present with the past in her mind), and the past (Ann meeting Harris at her best friend’s wedding). There are a few times where the cuts are a tad abrupt, and the progression of the past is so good that you may find the present stuff a bit longwinded and boring, but overall it is handled better than at first thought. It’s not as though Ann’s life now is uninteresting, it just has less to do with the plot then it does with the morals being learned. While I grant that the parallels to the past help alleviate the problems for Ann’s children currently, I was still a bit too enraptured in the wedding to care as much as I maybe should have. There are some nice moments, though, for instance, the crash that awakens Ann from slumber being mirrored later on, and the cryptic dreams which bridge both worlds together.

It is the acting that makes the flashbacks so enthralling and fluid. These performances are completely riveting to the point where you get a bit angry when our time period has changed and we must wait to find out what happens next. No matter how annoying I find Claire Danes’ angry/sad/crying face that exists in every role she plays, the girl is good at what she does. I find myself warming to her talents more and more lately and this one just furthers that thawing. Patrick Wilson is always great in whatever I’ve seen him in. You must give him credit for picking some really fantastic roles and never doing much more than one film a year. From Angels in America to last year’s Little Children, the guy will soon blow up, but hopefully he will stay true to the craft and not cash-in. Heck even Mamie Gummer is good as the younger version of her real life mother Meryl Streep, (who surprisingly is in the film very little). She is still rough around the edges, but she was wonderful at expressing the emotional turmoil her character goes through on her wedding day. The real revelation, though, is Hugh Dancy. I feel I’ve seen him in many things, but in fact it seems only in King Arthur. Dancy literally steals every scene he is in and the way in which his role of Buddy is devastated by love/alcohol/life is etched in his facial expressions throughout. Without his performance, the flashback sequences could have fallen into the somewhat forgettable category as the rest of the film and made the experience as a whole much worse.

While not wholly original in the ways of what the writers are after, Evening does bring intelligence and craft to the table. You may be able to fault the length and amount of cut scenes to tie everything together, but you can’t argue that the acting isn’t worth sticking around for. Maybe a film version of the wedding alone could have been something to see, however, when it is all put together, there may also be something coming out of it that couldn’t have been achieved without all the other story threads. Either way, the payoff is worth the ride for the most part and each plane of reality finishes with its own subtle beauty and lives up to what had come before it.

Evening 7/10

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photography:
[1] Claire Danes (left), Hugh Dancy (center) and Patrick Wilson (right) star in Lajos Koltai’s EVENING, a Focus Features release
[2] Meryl Streep (left) and Vanessa Redgrave (right) star in Lajos Koltai’s EVENING, a Focus Features release.

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