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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

EVENING (article first published : 2008-02-20)

There are a handful of veteran female actresses whose work I try NEVER to miss, e.g. Judi Dench and Maggie Smith (did you catch these two Dames in that absolute GEM, Ladies in Lavender, about a violin-player who washes up on the shore near their rural home, and the touching way in which they each vie for his attention?) Others are Meryl Streep, Vanessa Redgrave and Glenn Close (more of whom toward the end of this piece) and when I read that ALL three aforementioned were cast in Evening, a film about a middle-aged woman who is dying, and reminisces about her lost loves, well, I just could NOT miss it!

I’ve long been a fan of Vanessa’s (with the exception of a rather awful film I saw way back in 1971 on television in the UK where she played the part of a nun who impales herself on a hideously long pole!) and was interested to read that this 70-year-old was once in a fairly long relationship with former Bond actor, Timothy Dalton. She comes from a highly talented acting family, and she and her sister, Lynn Redgrave, were both nominated for Best Actress of the Year in 1967, by the way, but lost out to Elizabeth Taylor.

The storyline of Evening might sound mawkish or a bit of a weepie for ladies- only but this was not the case at all. Most adults will be able to relate to mistakes we’ve all made in life when it comes to falling in love, and this is handled beautifully and tenderly by way of flashbacks that come to Vanessa’s character as she lies upstairs, hooked up to various medical aids, as her two daughters deal with their own relationship troubles downstairs.

The youthful version of our dying damsel is portrayed by the highly talented contemporary actress Claire Danes, giving the finest performance I’ve seen from her to date, managing to convey JUST the right touch in playing a rather shy but attractive young girl with a yen to become a singer (indeed, she performs, rather tentatively, at her sister’s wedding) – with Meryl Streep’s younger persona being played by Meryl’s own daughter, Mamie Gummer, who I’ve not seen in a film before. It’s absolutely AMAZING just how much like her mother she looks, right down to the rather long nose and rather small mouth! (By the way, Meryl herself only appears rather briefly towards the end, in a very touching scene where the two friends are reunited at the dying woman’s bedside after a long period of time.)

Another interesting casting is that one of the daughters is, in fact, played by one of Vanessa Redgrave’s own daughters, namely Natasha Richardson, the other daughter played by the highly accomplished (though not that beautiful) Australian actress, Toni Colette, who you may remember as an ABBA-obsessed rebellious teenager in what I think was her very first film. (Vanessa has yet another talented actress daughter, Joely Richardson, the two of them having appeared as mother-and daughter in the TV series Nip/Tuck.)

There are a couple of other familiar faces in the cast of Evening, Barry Bostwick being one, but for me the male actor I found most captivating was Patrick Wilson (whose face seemed vaguely familiar but I could not place from where) playing the love-of-her-life in the Vanessa Redgrave character’s dreams of her youth, where she finds herself drawn more and more to the not nearly so wealthy young man as the fellow she’s set to marry, a much more flamboyant character of rather artistic temperament, given to the vagaries of quite a deal of INtemperence, which becomes his downfall.

Set against the backdrop of the amazingly beautiful scenery of Rhode Island, this is a memorable little cameo of a film, and should do well on the circuit, and perhaps also when it comes out on DVD, though you really do need to see it on the Big Screen to enjoy it all in full measure. It has a very fine soundtrack including the Polish Radio Orchestra, not to mention an absolutely charming impromptu dance scene played out against the backdrop of contemporary singer Michael Bublé singing I’ve Got the World on a String - whereas I would have thought one of the olden-day crooners might have been more plausible for the era intended to be conveyed!

Glenn Close is also well cast as a wealthy matriarch, which she played with aplomb, and by sheer coincidence I also caught her in mid-January in the first episode of a VERY promising new series at 21:30 on Tuesdays on M-Net called Damages. Here she’s cast as an extremely powerful and highly-renowned (reputable would NOT be the correct term here!) lawyer with not too many scruples when it comes to winning her cases: indeed, the highly-intricate plot meant you had to be wide-awake to keep up with the machinations involved in this fast-moving drama, and I can’t WAIT to see how it plays out! - Bev Pulé




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