“We’re curious creatures aren’t we? Us women,” pipes Ann Grant (Redgrave) as she lies, literally, on her death bed. Well, yes you are, and Evening is testament to this. Susan Minot’s time spanning tale of love stretches half a century as the crinkly Ann recounts the story of a lost love to her daughters. Evening is played out between a modern day bedside and a 1950’s high society wedding. Needless to say passions run high, and tragedy is afoot as two love triangles collide.
Fresh faced Ann (Danes) is asked to be maid of honour for her old college friend Lila (played by Meryl Streep’s daughter, Mamie Gummer); the problem is Lila secretly loves the mysterious Harris (Wilson — think Mr Darcy). Harris falls for Ann who is already attached to Lila’s hedonistic brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy), messy then. Back to the present and Ann’s daughter Nina (Collette) is in a right old state; a serial drifter who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant, she searches for answers in her mother’s past to salvage her own future.
Evening is largely flawed because the modern day vigil for Ann feels tagged on, slowing down proceedings no end. Having to endure Ann’s prolonged suffering adds little to the film, saying that, watching the ever-excellent Collette grieve for her mother is rewarding. The meaty drama occurs in flashback involving Wilson and Danes as their chemistry boils over resulting in a sudden death that rocks the family celebrations. The 1950s photography is sumptuous; Evening looks like one big oil painting, shimmering locations and sequins galore.
The stellar ensemble is slightly distracting: ‘isn’t that Meryl Streep?’, ‘Oh look there’s Glenn Close’. Evening feels like a who’s who of feminine Hollywood, ala Mona Lisa Smile or Little Women. There is so much oestrogen on screen it’s a relief when Harris shows up to inject some much needed manliness (sorry). Evening is an intelligent drama full of pleasing performances though the sluggish plot makes it hard to care about what happens to the (countless) leading ladies. You may feel obliged to shed a tear for Ann, though the blatant way the filmmakers go about yanking heartstrings should steady your hand when reaching for the Kleenex. One for genre (or is that gender?) fans — you know who you are.