Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5.
USA, 2007. Hart-Sharp Entertainment, MBF Erste Filmproduktiongesellschaft, Twins Financing. Screenplay by Susan Minot, Michael Cunningham, based on the novel by Susan Minot. Cinematography by Gyula Pados. Produced by Jeffrey Sharp. Music by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek. Production Design by Caroline Hanania. Costume Design by Michelle Matland, Ann Roth. Film Editing by Allyson C. Johnson.
Vanessa Redgrave lies in palliative care awaiting the end, her mind a sea of emotions and memories that neither she nor her two devoted daughters (Natasha Richardson, Redgrave’s real-life daughter, and Toni Collette) can figure out. Her mind keeps taking her back to a particular summer of her youth when, played by Claire Danes, she attended the wedding of her best friend (Mamie Gummer) in Newport and met the love of her life (Patrick Wilson). Years later she wonders where all the time went, and how her life feels completely wasted considering she never achieved much in her career ambition as a singer, nor as a mother to her two girls. Despite boasting a formidable cast including Glenn Close, Meryl Streep (playing the older version of Gummer, who is her real-life daughter) and Eileen Atkins, this film never really gets its hooks into you. The cast of characters are all overly familiar stereotypes and the WASP-porn story achieves nothing surprising or involving, particularly since Danes is lovely but thoroughly miscast; it’s hard to believe why everyone thinks she’s so different and charismatic, and the scene where she sings at Gummer’s wedding and creates a memory that supposedly lasts a lifetime makes absolutely no impact on the audience whatsoever. The actors all do their best with dull roles, but the film only comes to life in two instances: Hugh Dancy‘s performance as Gummer’s self-destructive brother is another familiar character type but benefits from his energetic vitality, and Streep’s shrewd intelligence gives much to her glorified cameo in the film’s last few scenes (though why she’s been hired to play an old biddy is well beyond me). Susan Minot adapted her own novel with writer Michael Cunningham (The Hours, A Home At The End Of The World), and probably could have benefited from collaboration with a more film-experienced screenwriter.