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Grace Quigley (Katherine Hepburn), an elderly woman, witnesses a hit man, Seymour Flint (Nick Nolte), in action. She finds that he has dropped his wallet and learns his identity. She then blackmails him into killing her, since she is elderly and has no reason to live but lacks the courage to take her own life. However he quickly develops a fondness for her, as a surrogate mother and so can not kill her. Instead they start assisting in the suicides of friends of Grace who no longer wish to live. The film is black comedy at its best and is one of my favourite films. The characters are likable and, wierdly, we end up rooting for them to die. Nolte's role as a sentimental hit man and his relationship with Grace are particularly amusing. This film is not for those who have a strong repugnant feeling against suicide but if you enjoy the bizarre, then you may very well like this film. If you do, then you could also like Harold and Maude.
Yes,this was quite unfortunately Ms. Hepburn's last,1st billed,starring
What a shame it is too! Despite a daring storyline and plot about elderly people who no longer want to live,the second 1/2 of this film gets hopelessly lost.
It loses it's direction and in a sense...chickens out from it's bold stance on assisted suicide and or mercy killings. While I don't favor such acts,I thought that Ms. Hepburn and all involved were making some sort of statement here.
Later she,regrets her act of helping her friends die by turning in the man she hired! The continuity of the film seems disrupted as well by shoddy editing and dialog. At least she got to be in 1994's Love Affair and her TV movies were even better.
A short appearance for Love Affair, but 100% better than this.
In one part of this Nick Nolte is looking all over the city for her and incredibly finds her on the roof of a building! What did he do? Go to the roof of every building in the city?
By the end of this I can't tell if they regret what they've done or are okay with it.
When I originally found this at my local Blockbuster Video, I considered it a stroke of luck but I guess I should have known by how dusty it was (and yes it honestly was!)that it hadn't been watched for a reason.
I love Ms. Hepburn's acting and I don't blame her for this fiasco nor Mr. Nolte. She's great as always but the second 1/2 does no justice to her abilities. I blame the writers,the producers,the directors and the studio especially, for not shelving this embarrassment to an otherwise great actress.
Avoid at all costs,unless you "really" love Katharine Hepburn so much,you'll watch her in anything! (END)
Golan-Globus, something like that, and Cannon
films: Ancient film producers from the early
eighties when videocassettes were starting to
change the nature of the American Movie Biz.
Films had begun to boom!
Enter two extraordinary actors: Katherine Hepburn and Nick Nolte.
Nolte had been appearing in commercial Hollywood productions for years, but he is a real actor and wanted to appear in quality productions.
The prospect of appearing with Great Katherine must have seduced him into working with these hopelessly exploitive producers and Cannon films. Kate looks great, her Parkinson disease notwithstanding, in the last theater movie she ever made. It appeared in 1984, when she was still in her seventies, her etched cheekbones intact, and her teeth still movie star white.
Here's the plot: Kate Hepburn watches as Hit-man Nick Nolte, just barely in his forties, kills her noxious landlord. Impressed, Kate who has been thinking of checking out herself decides to hire Nick to off her. Before long, complications ensue. The whole gerontological
group that Kate knows, including most of the unemployed aging actors in New York, want to leave the stage, as it were, themselves. They want to join Kate in that great actors home in the sky.
The Plot thread is helped when Kate invites a friend to join her by arranging a package deal to have them both killed by Nick. But Nick turns out to be a sensitive hit-man, not willing to go along with all of Kate's murderous fantasies. The plot eventually spirals out of control. Nick offs few of the older set, but becomes very popular with this group. After all, if this Golan-Globus (they're the producers) hadn't put together these two stars, Walter Abel probably would have died before he worked in another film. The same goes for many of the other actors in this film.
Toward the end, a cabbie keeps Kate's shoe as ransom for a cab fare she can't pay. Kate wants Nick to off the cabbie. But this black comedy has wandered to too many side alleys. Nick's psychiatrist warns him that Kate has unearthed his sensitive side, and he had better change his ways.
In the end, there is no plot-driven denouement to this tale. Nick and Kate spot an enormous throng of old folks looking for a way to end it all near her apartment, and decide to escape these growing responsibilities by lighting out for what passes for the territories in Manhattan.
So who's driving the cab they hail on the street? You guessed it, the cabbie who stole Kate's shoe. The hack looks at her surprised, looks even more apprehensively at Nick, and turns around to drive his fares where they want to go.
Nick and Kate have apparently won some sort of battle by getting the last laugh on the cabbie, and so the film ends with both of them alive and smiling in the back of the cab, all their problems solved. Its not a great ending, but a fair compromise to finish this wildly out-of-hand scenario.
Katharine Hepburn in a Cannon production? Yes, and though the color process on the photography is typically brackish and the technical aspects of "Grace Quigley" seem slapdash, this turns out to be a quirky, exceptionally funny piece about a hit-man's friendship with an elderly woman in New York. Reportedly, Hepburn and Nick Nolte clashed during filming, but you'd never suspect that from the finished returns (they have an easy rapport). The crux of the plot (that aged folks would rather die mercifully at the hands of a hired killer then live in loneliness or pain) was controversial in 1984--and still smacks of bad taste--yet director Anthony Harvey keeps the whole thing bubbling like the most genial of comedies. As for Kate, she's feisty as usual, but also delightfully daffy and loose; she's a team player. *** from ****
The third time was not the charm for the acting/directing team of
Katharine Hepburn and Anthony Harvey. The two had been responsible for
Kate's Oscar winning performance in The Lion In Winter and an acclaimed
television version of The Glass Menagerie.
But gold went to brass in this black comedy, Grace Quigley about an old woman who sees a professional hit-man off her landlord. Truth be told the landlord was not the nicest guy in the world and there's no shock for the audience see the murder from Kate's point of view.
But Hepburn in the title role sees Nick Nolte as the hit-man as the solution to all her problems. She hasn't much reason to hang around this mortal coil with no family and friends taking the big trip, more it seems all the time. She blackmails Nolte into doing a hit on her, and maybe a few interested friends. And things get complicated there.
Kate also manages to pick a hit-man with issues. Nolte is in analysis and this new complication in his life is of interest to his doctor, Chip Zien. And Nolte who never had a family so to speak and the little old lady form one unusual bond that even Nolte's girl friend Kit Lefever can't break nor does she really want to.
This rather ordinary material is made much better by the sheer presence of Katharine Hepburn. She seems to be taking her Madwoman Of Chaillot character and Americanizing it in Grace Quigley. I doubt if a lesser actress could have made this palatable.
Grace Quigley marked the final performance of Walter Abel whose career stretched all the way back to World War I. Abel is one of the old folks just dying for Nolte's services.
Grace Quigley is primarily for Katharine Hepburn fans, I don't think it has too much appeal beyond that. Then again Kate has one big legion of fans.
I have watched Grace Quigley a couple of times (on VHS) and found
myself laughing out loud each time. It really is one of the best dark
comedies around. I've recommended it to several friends who never heard
of the movie and after watching it have come back to thank me. I don't
think it ever made it to DVD, which is too bad. I would happily buy the
DVD if it becomes available. Nolte and Hepburn are terrific.
The final solution is the best part of the plot. Hepburn and Nolte meet up in the most unusual way. Hepburn plays the part of the old woman who is fed up with her difficult life and wants to end it all. Nolte is a 'hit man' and Hepburn tries to hire him to do herself in. Being such a lovable old lady causes a conflict and Nolte cannot bring himself to do it... The end result a booming business with the most unorthodox product for 'sale'.
If you are in the mood for a good laugh, this is one that you should not miss.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
"Old age ain't for sissies", the legendary Bette Davis once said, and
here, the equally legendary Katharine Hepburn takes on the same
viewpoint, even though at one point, she's ready to throw the towel in.
The actress, legendary for taking winter morning swims in freezing
water, celebrated being in films for over 50 years by starring in this
dark comedy where an ailing elderly woman happens to witness a hit man
(Nick Nolte) on duty and stalks him in order to convince him to do her
in to unveil her of her ailments. She's sick of being tired, sick of
being old, and definitely sick of being sick. But she suddenly gets a
new lease on life when she finds herself being needed for what she sees
as her old age purpose. That purpose? Aiding unwitting members of the
senior community by killing them off "gently" simply to unveil them of
their woes. They are all in agreement, some of them choosing their own
deaths or allowing it to be a surprise. But of course, Katie isn't a
murderer at heart, even if her intentions are good, and when things get
a little too awry, she's desperate to get out.
Anthony Harvey, whose direction of "The Lion in Winter" helped bring Kate her third Oscar, wasn't so lucky here, and this film has had a precarious release history. Its initial release only lasted a week, and re-edited, it wasn't a success, either. Of the supporting actors, Elizabeth Wilson, William Duell, Paula Trueman and Truman Gaige stand out, with Wilson stealing every scene she is in as the most determined member of the group who desires to go out in a blaze of glory. This certainly is not a film for people who are sensitive to death, especially when it concerns their elderly family members. You won't think of the song "When Irish Eyes are Smiling" in the same way again after seeing this movie.
Old Hollywood stars who were still working by the 1980's where usually
appearing in films dealing with old age (On Golden Pond, Tough Guys,
The Whales of August). Grace Quigley was one such film, and would be
Katharine Hepburn's last starring role in a theatrical film. The
movie's alternative title is 'The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley',
although I'm assuming that title is less commonly used since it echoes
a certain 20th century atrocity.
Starring alongside Nick Nolte, Grace Quigley has a Harold and Maude element of a young man and an old woman becoming an unlikely team, but the Hal Ashby comparison doesn't end there as I've read several sources stating he was originally set to direct the project. The plot of the film involves retired widow Grace Quigley and hit man Seymour Flint getting together through a series of events (and eventfully he adorably starts calling her mom) and starting their own assisted suicide enterprise. Yes, that's the plot. Grace Quigley is one of my favourite dark comedies, with much of the film's humour coming from the characters talking so casually about killing themselves as if it's something they do every day, and the inclusion of possibly the happiest funeral ever.
The film has a pro-assisted suicide message, with one scene involving Grace's neighbour played by William Duell telling Seymour about dying with dignity and her unwillingness to go to a retirement home and "dying in front of a TV set". In one of the more serious moments of the film, Grace takes Seymour to a retirement home to show him the horrors. I applaud the film for having the courage to make these unapologetic statements about one's right to take their own life and society's treatment of the elderly. As Grace Quigley was a pet project for Katharine Hepburn, she must have strongly believed in the issues raised in the film (and a sequel was even planned!).
I also recommend looking up Grace Quigley's UK VHS cover art. The film I not actually that action packed (although there is one brief car chase), but I still say it is the single greatest piece of home video artwork ever created.
This film has an offbeat premise, and many offbeat characters. The last theatrical release of Kate's career is neither a fitting nor typical valedictory -- and in that way, perhaps it is a fitting testimonial to Hepburn's career --- unconventional and poignant while always entertaining. Although the laughs are uneven and the subject matter may offend some, I found it entertaining and interesting.
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