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After his mother's death, Collin Fenwick goes to live with his father's cousins, the wealthy, avaricious, and controlling Verena Talbo, and her compliant, earthy sister Dolly. When a city slicker comes to town and convinces Verena to market Dolly's locally-famous tonic, Dolly finally gets some backbone, refuses to divulge the formula, and heads for a tree house with Collin and Catherine, the loyal maid. Verena, who has most of the town in her pocket, sics the law on the renegades. Dolly, Catherine, and Collin find a supporter in a retired judge, Charlie Cool, who's attracted to Dolly. Will Verena's venom win out? And what about that city slicker? Written by
An Undiscovered Gem full of Wonderful Surprises and Great Performances
Set in the 30's, The Grass Harp is a story about an orphan boy who is sent to live with his eccentric aunts. The story follows the plight of social "outcasts" with humor and insight.
On the surface this story is about love and our connections to others - both living and dead. Yet underneath run themes of social injustice, racial inequality, religion, morals and the struggles of social conformity vs. individual expression - but the film never preaches. It just reveals.
Director Charles Matthau accomplished the near-impossible task of adapting Truman Capote's classic book into a beautiful rendered film. Wisely, he approached this multi-layered story with a light touch, allowing the material and talent to shine. Matthau skillfully captures a myriad of complex relationships and emotions, allowing the characters to live and breathe without placing judgment on who they are.
The boy's coming-of-age story is entertaining, humorous and poignant. As the film unfolds, Collin encounters a diverse group of characters, from which he gains valuable insights about life. Now an adult he looks back (as the narrator) reflecting on this formative time.
Each character is uniquely distinct and true-to-life. The entire all-star cast is at the top of their game.
This is the best performance of Piper Laurie's career. She is delicate and mesmerizing as the fragile Dolly Talbo. Her scenes with Spacey and Matthau will break your heart.
For those of you who have only seen Walter Matthau in grumpy curmudgeon roles, you are in for a treat!
Matthau is wonderful as a Judge Cool, a Southern gentleman struggling to find meaning in his retirement years. As Piper Laurie's love interest he is tender and charming yet dignified. A man of integrity and honor, Judge Cool is the only "accepted" towns person with compassion for the outcasts.
As a collective, the ensemble cast captures the social pecking order with uncanny accuracy.
Jon Don Baker is great as the Sheriff, Nell Carter is a hoot as the eccentric housekeeper and Sissy Spacek is an amazing blend of steely resolve masking her conflicted feelings of vulnerability and insecurity.
Roddy McDowell is the delightfully sarcastic barber. Jack Lemmon and Mary Steenbergen are great fun as cons on the run. Mary as a traveling cowgirl evangelist out to save souls - never mind that she is a single- mother of fourteen kids all by different fathers! She pulls it off with comic charm and sad poignancy. Lemmon is a "chemical engineer" (read quack potions salesman) with a scheme to get his hands on Dolly's herbal potion. Even though both Lemmon and Steenbergen are devious cons looking to score, they too are well-developed characters and oh-so-human in their desperate schemes to survive the Great Depression.
There is also one of the most delightful casts of furry creatures ever assembled: a host of cats, dogs, fish, and a scene-stealing Rooster named Ralph. It looked to me like Ralph was huffing around wishing he had more lines. I'd be all for him getting his own sequel.
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