Star-studded ‘Evening’ falls

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“Evening,” an adaptation of Susan Minot’s beloved novel, brings the stars out. The author reworked her story for the screen with Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Hours,” and the cast teems with dazzling actors and actresses: Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Toni Collette and Claire Danes, to name a few.

Its allure burns out a bit early, however.

This wants to be a poignant film about a woman on her deathbed, Ann Lord (Miss Redgrave), and her realization of how decisions or mistakes can change your life. (Oh, the pathos.) But it strives too hard to be profound, and when the answers that come really aren’t, we feel a bit duped. (Oh, the bathos.)

As in “The Hours,” multiple stories and time periods are woven together. When we’re not watching the elderly woman wither away in her bedroom, we’re seeing the memories streaming through her half-conscious mind, or how her daughters are handling her gradual passing.

Ann keeps muttering about someone named Harris and other subjects from her past that are unfamiliar to her progeny. To the stoic Constance (Natasha Richardson, Miss Redgrave’s real-life daughter), who’s made rather by-the-book life choices to get married and have children, these just sound like delusions. To the dark-edged Nina (Miss Collette), who’s secretly pregnant and has doubts about settling down with her musician beau, they must have some greater significance.

Turns out, they do — as the audience discovers through Ann’s visions.

They show a young Ann (Claire Danes) traveling to high-society Newport for the wedding of her best friend, Lila Wittenborn (Mamie Gummer, Miss Streep’s daughter). Of course, all isn’t well in paradise; Lila is having cold feet because she’s in love with another man, Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson), and Lila’s brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) has all kinds of issues that Newport types like to sweep under the rug and into the closet.

When Ann meets the mysterious Harris, she discovers his appeal for herself — and she, too, may find she later has lifelong regrets that are linked to this handsome gentleman.

“Evening” paints lovely visuals and draws nice performances from its stellar cast, particularly the earthy Miss Danes and Miss Streep, who gets a too-short cameo as the elder Lila.

It struggles, however, by trying to make too much out of too little — trying to turn a night nurse into an angel; to make a symphony out of the song Ann sings at Lila’s wedding; to make a strong subplot from the stereotype-reliant sister characters; to make a grand constellation out of what’s really just a group of stars.

**

TITLE: “Evening”

RATING: PG-13 (Some thematic elements, sexuality and language)

CREDITS: Directed by Lajos Koltai. Written by Susan Minot and Michael Cunningham based on the novel by Miss Minot.

RUNNING TIME: 118 minutes

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