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Grace of My Heart Movie Review

allison douglas fonda illeana

I spent a dozen hours of my life in 1996 watching The Beatles Anthology. I don't know how much more thorough an in-house project could have been. It had every scrap of footage, with massive commentary by the group, their producer, their press officer, and their tour manager. Yet I found myself recalling, with increasing fondness, the devastating and very funny 70-minute satire All You Need Is Cash, made by Eric Idle and Neil Innes in 1978. Irreverent fiction sometimes does it better than the most scrupulously produced documentary. Allison Anders’ Grace of My Heart pays tribute to the female songwriters of the ‘60s who slogged their youth away in tiny offices creating words and music for big stars to turn into hits. The two factors I most enjoyed about the film just as easily turn others off. Illeana Douglas, to me, is one of the great undiscovered treasures in movies today. In films like Cape Fear, Grief, Search and Destroy, and To Die For, Douglas has consistently turned in performances evocative of 1940s “B” queens, but with a daffy, vulnerable twist all her own. Illeana Douglas aficionados won't be able to get enough of her in Grace of My Heart, but if she ain't your type, this movie won't be either, since she's in virtually every sequence. And if you're sick to death of the 1960s, see something else! Unfortunately, I attended a screening with a group of bickering critics who had trouble with the star, the subject, or both, AND they were disappointed by the songwriter's romantic choices. They also complained because the soundtrack was dubbed by vocalists. Hey, we're talking Allison Anders here, not some megabuck studio with a demographic survey team. Anders’ script and direction are terrific, filled with realistic observations and deft touches missing in male-oriented rock films like the otherwise excellent Stardust. John Turturro is exceptional as the no-nonsense producer, Bridget Fonda contributes a nice bit as a gay teen idol (her dad Peter was cut out of the film as Guru Dave, although his voice remains on the soundtrack), and Matt Dillon as a destructive genius sounds eerily like Dennis Hopper. Grace of My Heart is a charmingly gritty look at a grittily charming character. Regardless of what you may read about this one in print, give Grace of My Heart a chance. Recommended for further research on video: Girl Groups, crammed with colorful if not always accurate recollections as well as vintage clips of some terrific performances of that era.

1996 (R) 116m/C Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davison, Patsy Kensit, Bridget Fonda, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Chris Isaak; D: Allison Anders; W: Allison Anders; C: Jean-Yves Escoffier; M: Larry Klein; V: Peter Fonda. VHS, LV, Letterbox, Closed Caption

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