Gene Page/Focus Feature Films

Review in a Hurry:  Good Evening? More like bad mourning. Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson attend to their dying mom, Vanessa Redgrave, who remembers when she was young and looked like Claire Danes and crushed on cutie Patrick Wilson. The cast is impressive—Meryl Streep, Glenn Close appear as well—but this disappointing drama packs in too many characters, too many talky scenes, too many flashbacks.

The Bigger Picture:  What works in the novel doesn't always work on the screen. Uneven Evening is a case in point, with an adaptation (by author Susan Minot and The Hours' Michael Cunningham) that clumsily shifts between the present and decades past.

On her deathbed, Redgrave prattles on about mysterious people from fifty years ago, which concerns and intrigues her daughters: Collette, the single and restless one, and Richardson (Redgrave's real-life daughter), the married and happy one.

In extended flashbacks, Redgrave recalls a summer in the '50s when she (played by Danes) was maid of honor at Lila Wittenborn's (Mamie Gummer) high-society wedding. During the drama-filled weekend, Danes falls for Wilson, who—despite fate's alternate plans—is the love of her life.

Evening features more stars than its many shots of evening skies, but the stellar cast doesn't completely shine. Danes feels too modern in her portrayal. Redgrave has some lovely moments when she's not repeatedly slipping in and out of consciousness. Collette, though always interesting to watch, has played this role before. And Close's Mrs. Wittenborn is so tightly wound she's a distraction—you expect her to go all Mommie Dearest on daughter Lila. Then Streep (as an older Lila) shows up in the last act, mostly to rehash stuff we've already seen. (Incidentally, Mamie Gummer is Streep's real-life daughter, too.)

Ironically, with all these powerhouse actresses, it's Hugh Dancy—as Lila Wittenborn's tortured, hard-drinking brother—who makes a real impression. You too might need to down a few to get through this drawn-out family affair.

The 180—a Second Opinion:  Speed dial your real-estate agent! The summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island, where most of the '50s scenes are set, is a seaside stunner. And director Lajos Koltai, also an Oscar-nominated cinematographer, makes sure his cast is radiantly photographed, bathed in moon glow and "golden hour" sunsets. We should all be lit so beautifully.

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