How disappointing, how maddening it is to watch a film that has such potential for greatness but winds up only middling. Such is the case with EVENING, a drama based on writer Susan Minot's acclaimed novel of the same name -- the acting is great (how could it not be, with a cast like it has?), but in many other ways it misses the mark. Clearly, there's plenty of material to work with here, and cinematographer Gyula Pados' moody palette serves it well. But the film's potency takes a while to build and is diluted by too much back-and-forth time shifting. The pace slackens just when tension should build and cuts away when emotions grow overwhelming. And although there's an embarrassment of talent here -- Streep, Redgrave, and Glenn Close under one cinematic roof! -- there are simply too many people to keep track of in so little time. It's hard to be invested in a story when you don't know much about what motivates its characters.
Which brings up perhaps Evening's most egregious flaw: Harris (Patrick Wilson). Ostensibly the love of Ann's life (and everyone else's, too -- more than one character says "we were all in love with Harris"), he comes across here as, well, somewhat of a drip. (Patrick Wilson was much sexier and more compelling in Little Children). Ann tells him that he's "the most serious man she has ever met." She says this with affection, but the fact is that although he's attractive, he's quite uninteresting. Then again, this may actually bolster Minot's point (or at least that of screenwriter Michael Cunningham, who shares writing credit). As an older Lila (played by Streep) says, "We are mysterious creatures, aren't we? But in the end, so much of it turns out not to matter." Perhaps it is not Harris who matters, but Ann herself.