EVENING (Lajos Koltai). 117 minutes. Opens Friday (June 29). Rating: NN
Rarely has a film of such pedigree - based on an acclaimed bestseller, scripted by a Pulitzer Prize winner, starring multiple Oscar winners and nominees - wallowed so self-indulgently in its own pretentious pseudo-intellectualism.
Essentially the deathbed ramblings of an aged nightclub singer, Ann (Vanessa Redgrave), whose one lucid memory is of an affair she had at her best friend's wedding 50 years ago, Evening is like The Notebook without the tearjerking romance, Rachel McAdams or an awareness of its intrinsic soapiness.
The result is a mawkish melodrama that strains to say something profound about female identity without saying anything at all.
The time frame shifts constantly. In the present, Ann's obnoxious daughters (the responsible favourite, played by Redgrave's own daughter Natasha Richardson, and the screw-up, played by Toni Collette) attend their delusional and dying mother.
In the past, young Ann (Claire Danes) has a passionless and unconvincing tryst with Harris (Patrick Wilson), a doctor and wedding guest. The bride (Meryl Streep's daughter Mamie Gummer) also lusts after him, as does the bride's brother (Hugh Dancy), whose inability to deal with his sexuality leads him to embarrassing drunken displays of aggression toward his rich family's phoniness.
Glenn Close arches her finely tweezed brows as the bride's mother, a caricature of a high-society matriarch, while Streep turns up as the present-day version of her daughter's character.
Michael Cunningham (The Hours) adapted Susan Minot's novel, but he's ditched what passes for plot and character development to give Evening his own distinct stamp. There's a snootiness not just to the New England bluebloods on screen, but to the film's general tone, as though we're not good enough for the story being told, which I interpret to mean we're not sufficiently boorish or banal.