Stars: ** 1/2
Rating: PG-13 for some language, nudity and mature themes
Run Time: 1 hour, 57 minutes
There’s a better movie somewhere inside this saccharine weepy that telegraphs its melodramatics with shameless glee.
The timeless bond between mothers and daughters is the hook of the screen adaptation of Susan Minot’s beloved novel of a wealthy family perpetually on the cusp of crisis.
(Claire Danes) has left the comfort of her Greenwich Village digs and traveled
Should be drama enough to sustain a couple hours of secrets and lies but director Lajos Koltai spins a grander web of stagy threads with reckless abandon. Lila’s irrepressible and alcoholic brother Buddy (Hugh Dancy) is the story’s titular voice of reason, a be-soaked and bewildered charmer who secretly pines for Ann while cutting too close to the high-society truths of his stoic family.
Epicenter of this social whirlpool is unwitting villain Harris Arden (Patrick Wilson), son of the ex-caretaker grown into a handsome doctor who appears to have his hooks in more than Lila’s heart.
At this point the film threatens to overflow with emotional bounty and that’s just the flashbacks. The adult Ann (Vanessa Redgrave) lies on her deathbed, mulling over thrills and regrets to the consternation of daughters Nina (Toni Collette) and Connie (Miranda Richardson), who puzzle over the identity of mystery man “Harris” as mom waxes remorseful about the one that got away.
rapid-fire flip-flop between decades is perplexing, never finding a smooth
groove and offering distraction where clarification would be welcome. Clichés
The star power is staggering, each and every player chewing the scenery with theatrical gusto. With the exception of Gummer, for whom expectations run mighty high but who simply can’t radiate her mother’s legendary charisma.
Streep as the elder Lila (natch) has a “moment” with Redgrave, a major meeting of A-list minds that’s almost worth the price of admission.