Beautiful Dreamers

Evening

click to enlarge --REEL AS REAL: Real-life daughter and mother Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave play the same relationship in Evening - Focus Features
Focus Features
--REEL AS REAL: Real-life daughter and mother Natasha Richardson and Vanessa Redgrave play the same relationship in Evening

A chick flick with a serious pedigree, Evening offers up Vanessa Redgrave as an aging, ailing matriarch whose deathbed dreams revolve around a balmy weekend many decades past with her first great love. As flesh and consciousness slip into a place of pure memory (which is where the movie mostly occurs), Redgrave relates her tale to her grown daughters (Toni Collette and real-life Redgrave offspring Natasha Richardson), but mostly to herself.

Claire Danes plays Redgrave's younger self (and though they look nothing alike, both women have the commanding presences to make this a good casting choice), who finds romance at a friend's wedding nearly a century ago. The object of Redgrave/Danes' affection is Patrick Wilson (who performed a similar function recently in Little Children), but then again, it seems like just about everybody is in love with this golden boy — from the soon-to-be-bride (Mamie Gummer) to her possibly-gay brother (Hugh Dancy). The entire movie basically just becomes a waiting game for the sparks to fly, which they eventually do (although not in particularly spectacular or even interesting fashion).

Redgrave's memories of love are paralleled with her daughters' present-day romantic woes — Colette plays the emotionally unhinged single, while Richardson's both married and bored — but none of these individual stories is really strong enough to stand on its own. There's plenty of estrogen-laced star-power here, and the performances are uniformly solid (with one truly remarkable scene between Redgrave and Meryl Streep that's alone worth the admission price), but the material is nothing special. The script all hinges on the timeless connection between Danes and Wilson, and since that attraction really never seems very believable, the whole movie suffers.

Evening (PG-13) Stars Vanessa Redgrave, Claire Danes, Meryl Streep, Toni Collette, Natasha Richardson, Glenn Close, Mamie Gummer, Patrick Wilson and Eileen Atkins. Opens June 29 at local theaters. 2.5 stars

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