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Sunday, 29 July 2007

Review: Evening; directed by Lajos Koltai, based on a novel by Susan Minot, adapted for the screen by Michael "The Hours" Cunningham and Minot.

Before I start on this film, I just want to flip back to my stroll out of the cinema to my car. Opposite the glorious Leichhardt Town Hall -- a glabrous, wedding-cake edifice lit up with spots through the night -- is the All Soul's Anglican church, a fine, understated brick fabric from the century before last. It's noticeboard has a message for movie-goers: "The ending - You'll either love it or hate it". OK, finished.

The movie is too long, for a start. And before I get to praising Toni Collette (once again; see yesterday's post), I want to say that Mamie Gummer (who is Meryl Streep's actual daughter) did a great job as the girl who marries a man she doesn't love.

It's set part in the nineteen-fifties and part in the present. Clare Danes as fifties-Ann is not compelling at all, at all. Gummer beats her hands down. Danes is cinematically attractive with large, vibrant facial features that appeal to a more modern aesthetic. Some of the other bridesmaids fit the bill better.

In addition, there's the "irrepressible" (from the Web site) Buddy, played by Mel Gibson look-alike Hugh Dancy. He exudes some of Gibson's rocket-fuel unpredictability but not quite. Possibly it's the script that's at fault. It casts him as, basically, a useless lush more committed to the bottle than any prospect of husbandhood.

And these fifties girls are out for husbands. Lila (Gummer) wails that she will be 24 years old, so how can she refuse to marry the tall, boring guy (no name given online), since Harris (who Ann also wants) has been her choice from the age of fifteen. Thank god for the sixties, is all I can say (although possibly this trope would gel better with a younger, more postmodern viewer).

OK: time for Collette, who acts in the 'present' scenes.

As the slightly flaky sister Nina, she has dyed-red hair and wears grungy, dark clothes (not goth, but close). In addition (get this) her boyfriend's got a foreign accent (no kidding!). So only flaky girls who can't build a career go for the dashing, woggy types.

He, also, gets no billing but delivers a really nice performance when given a chance, as he is toward the end. He also wears a nice shirt.

The best scenes are with Richardson and Collette, without the slightest doubt. Collette's face is spontaneous and expresses a wide range of feelings. Apart from Richardson (who rocks), the other actors (pace Gummer) deliver relatively stereotypically 'good' close-ups. The difference is stiking. When Collette is on screen, you watch and listen carefully. With the others, I felt like a cigarette (c'mon, get on with it!).

Richardson delivers in spades. She is close to death, losing her ability to think coherently, and drops off to sleep a lot. She sees things, has visions. Confined to bed and dressed in a plain, white shift, she nevertheless keeps your attention throughout. A fine performance.

Overall, as I said, the movie is too long. There is no drama in some events that we should care about. When Collette tells her boyfriend she's pregnant, we are moved. When one of the actors gets killed (OK, it's Buddy, but we knew that from the beginning because Ann-played-by-Richardson tells us) it's just like TV. Big yawns all round.

There's one really beautiful scene following the accident when Ann-played-by-Danes walks down a wooden pier, onto a ramp, and finally onto a pontoon. The tide is low and the sun is low. The rocks behind her are tinged orange, and the sea to the fore is still blue. Quite lovely.

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