Dir. Lajos Koltai. 2007. PG-13. 118mins. Claire Danes, Toni Collette, Vanessa Redgrave, Patrick Wilson, Hugh Dancy, Natasha Richardson, Meryl Streep, Mamie Gummer.
The pedigree on this drama is impressive; it’s based on a respected Susan Minot novel, the screenplay is by Pulitzer-winner Michael Cunningham (The Hours), it’s directed by noted cinematographer-turned-director Koltai (Fateless) and the cast is like a multigeneration summit conference of notable women. The resulting film, alas, looks distressingly like an ad for a sleep aid, complete with butterflies and fields of tall grass (“Ask your doctor about Evening”).
Dying Ann Lord (Redgrave) recalls in golden-hued flashbacks her great “mistake,” which involved not marrying a blandly hunky doctor she met at the ritzy Newport, Rhode Island, wedding of her best friend in the 1950s. During the weekend, the younger Ann (Danes, pleasant but unimpressive) flirts with the doctor (Wilson, barely registering a pulse) when she’s not propping up her supposed date for the weekend, an alcoholic who hasn’t yet come to terms with his obvious homosexuality (Dancy, more interesting than the role he’s stuck in). Guess which character gets sacrificed to the gods of melodramatic plotting. Meanwhile, in the present, Ann’s daughters (Collette, Richardson) deal with her impending death.
Koltai and cinematographer Gyula Pados paint pretty pictures, but sitting through the film is about as exciting as watching a particularly tasteful shade of paint dry. There’s mild interest in the fact that the film has several mother-daughter pairs among the cast (Redgrave and Richardson, Streep and Gummer), but it can’t be a good sign that this fact is worth mentioning. (Opens Fri; Click here for showtimes.)—Hank Sartin