A drama exploring the romantic past and emotional present of Ann Grant and her daughters, Constance and Nina. As Ann lays dying, she remembers, and is moved to convey to her daughters, the defining moments in her life 50 years prior, when she was a young woman. Harris is the man Ann loves in the 1950s and never forgets.
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Maria Conchita Alonso
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The love which binds mother and daughter -- seen through the prism of one mother's life as it crests with optimism, navigates a turning point, and ebbs to its close. Overcome by the power of memory, Ann Lord reveals a long-held secret to her concerned daughters; Constance, a content wife and mother, and Nina, a restless single woman. Both are bedside when Ann calls out for the man she loved more than any other. But who is this "Harris," wonder her daughters, and what is he to our mother? While Constance and Nina try to take stock of Ann's life and their own lives, their mother is tended to by a night nurse as she journeys in her mind back to a summer weekend some fifty years before, when she was Ann Grant, a young woman who has come from New York City to be maid of honor at the high-society Newport wedding of her dearest friend from college, Lila Wittenborn. The bride-to-be is jittery, and turns to her maid of honor rather than her own mother for support. Ann stays close to her friend... Written by
In a scene in which characters get ready to drive away from the mansion, they are shown fastening seat belts with a shoulder strap. Shoulder straps were not introduced until much later than the mid '50's. See more »
For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been!" John Greenleaf Whittier
Evening is dominated by regret, saturated so completely I regret having seen the film. Well, not quite, but rarely has a film had such an accomplished cast and high-class writing pedigree and disappointed me so thoroughly. The regret theme is hammered home so superficially I was driven to try to remember lines from The Great Gatsby to mitigate my growing anger at being treated by the filmmakers as if I could not endure subtlety or ambivalence.
In other words, I got it from the first scene where Vanessa Redgrave looks out over her Newport memory at her young self (Claire Danes) and begins what have to be the easiest lines she's ever had playing an aging romantic: "Why didn't I marry Harris?" The variations on this theme in the movie are legion, even when it's not the young doctor, played by Patrick Wilson, whom her friend, Lila (Mamie Gummerlooking very much like her aunt, Meryl Streep), also regrets not marrying.
One of my major problems is that it's never clear why these substantial women spent so much emotional coin on a character we never get to know, except for his Paul Newmanish good looks. But like the rest of the regret-laden characters, this film spends no dramatic coin on depthall is skating on the surface, letting us do the sub-textual work rather than the dialogue. In the coda, Old Lila (Streep) makes an attempt at character deconstruction by saying about women, "We are mysterious creatures." Give me a break; could I have a bit more than platitude?
A regrettable life is Buddy's (Hugh Dancy), Lila's drunken, poetic brother, who tries to prevent Lila from marrying the wrong man (not Buddy), whom Buddy loves also, but then this gay sub-theme is never explored beyond a drunken kiss. Nothing in this film is explored except maybe its shameless borrowing from Gatsby without a modicum of understanding that his loss was not just of a woman but of a class struggle, a dying age, and self worth. For Ann, it's just Harris.
The cars are shiny period antiques, the house is beyond the reach of anyone in the audience, and the insights into smart women facing loss are none. Thank goodness for the arrival of evening, when the real stars are the lights in the firmament, not the rich wailing for their lost loves.
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