Claire Danes, Vanessa Redgrave, Toni Collette, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy
Directed by Lajos Koltai
Rated PG-13
Opens Friday

Josh Bell

It’s a little early for Oscar season, but Evening drips with so much prestige that it might as well come with preprinted “For Your Consideration” ads. The fact that it’s being pushed into theaters in the middle of the summer against huge action blockbusters could indicate that the studio thinks it’ll be effective counterprogramming, but it more likely indicates that they know the movie’s terrible and are hoping to spare all these respected actors too much shame.

Really, though, the actors are bringing much of it on themselves. The melodramatic script and maudlin direction don’t help, certainly, but there is no shortage of scenery-chewing and histrionics from the cast, starting with classy legend Redgrave as the aged Ann, lying on her deathbed and attended by her two daughters (Collette and Miranda Richardson). While Ann wastes away from some unspecified cinematic illness, she flashes back to her early 20s, when she was played by Claire Danes and attending the wedding of her best friend, Lila (Mamie Gummer). While at Lila’s picturesque summer home, Ann falls in love with stoic doctor Harris (Wilson), a childhood friend of Lila’s who’s also an object of unrequited love for Lila herself and her sexually confused brother Buddy (Dancy).

While Redgrave enacts convenient moments of confusion and lucidity, and Collette gives her millionth performance as a neurotic woman who can’t get her life together, Danes at least holds up the film’s nominal leading role, once again giving a sturdy performance in the midst of precious, sentimental mush (see 2005’s Shopgirl). Wilson is hopelessly wooden, but Dancy makes up for it by wildly over-emoting in every scene he’s in, seemingly never without tears in his eyes and a drunken slur in his voice.

Based on the novel by Susan Minot (who co-wrote the screenplay), Evening might have worked on the page, with evocative descriptions and carefully crafted dialogue. But director Koltai literalizes the symbolism and drowns everything in a sappy, overpowering score; the characters end up sounding like they’re reading dialogue from a bad novel. Reduced to soap-opera hysterics as it heads toward its conclusion, Evening finally expires with as much tiresome fanfare as its protagonist.

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