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I went to the Hampton's Film Festival in East Hampton this past weekend and saw a wonderful romantic comedy called Gray Matters. The film's overall look and message had a tone similar to one of my favorite directors, Nora Ephron. There was a delightful air of Harry Met Sally combined with You've Got Mail. The references throughout the movie to the 40's were superb. One of my favorite scenes was the opening shot where the two main characters Gray and Sam (brother and sister) ballroom dance to the tune of Cheek to Cheek, sung by actress Jane Krakowski. The footage of Manattan with Cheek to Cheek playing in the background had a feeling of a Woody Allen film. I thought the dialogue was not only funny but witty and timely. Molly Shannon delivers one of the funniest scenes in the movie referring to Oprah Winfrey and how she would surrogate a baby for Oprah and Steadman because she loves Oprah so much. It had the audience in hysterics. Heather Graham gives the performance of her career as a quirky, can't make up her mind, ad executive who struggles with her sexuality after meeting and falling in love with her brother's fiancée. Miss Graham was born to play to this role. At times she reminded me of a young Goldie Hawn. I stayed for the Q and A after the movie and was amazed to find out that the budget on this film was a 10th of what it appeared to be. If this was Sue Kramer's directorial debut, bravo, I look forward to seeing her next attempt at taking the helm. I would like to recommend this film for audiences of all ages. As I walked out of the theatre in East Hampton, I over heard an elderly woman around the age of 80 say " What a lovely film, I hope my granddaughters get a chance to see it".
Greetings again from the darkness. First time writer/director Sue
Kramer certainly tackles an interesting and unique topic with her
A quick synopsis: Brother (Tom Cavanaugh) and sister (Heather Graham) live together and are so close and spend so much time together that people naturally assume they are a couple (Ick!). Sister sets brother up with gorgeous, friendly, smart newcomer to the city (Bridget Moynahan) whom they meet at the dog park. Brother and newcomer immediately fall in love and set a wedding date for the next weekend. Sister and bride to be share a long, wet kiss before bride to be passes out drunk. This incident threatens to ruin brother - sister relationship while "outing" sister as the reluctant lesbian she is.
I rarely struggle over a rating or comments for a film. Normally the rating just hits me and the words flow. This one has me almost as confused as Heather Graham's character (Gray). I very much admire the soft-shoe approach that Kramer brings to this most delicate topic. No, I don't consider the theme "coming out" ... I consider the theme self-discovery of identity. Learning to accept one's self and not "pretend" to be what is expected. This topic is explored through some humorous moments, but in a strange way we actually go through the awakening with Ms. Graham.
The key actors all do a nice job. Graham and Cavanagh have a nice chemistry, Moynahan in lingerie is always a good call, Sissy Spacek as the world's worst therapist and Rachel Shelly in an extension from "The L Word" are all solid. Even Molly Shannon is finally cast in a role that suits her just fine. The best and most entertaining character is the Scottish cab driver played charmingly well by Alan Cumming. He is such a likable guy ... except for the whole gay bar scene.
What really prevents this one from reaching another level is strictly the number of unbelievable events. Two smart people zipping off to Vegas to get married after 6 days and having someone 30 years old first entertain thoughts of gaydom are just two large examples of stretches that ask the viewer for a bit too much latitude. Still, there are some funny moments, funny lines and a thought provoking identity theme that make it worthwhile.
I don't know why so many people seem to hate this movie; from the reviews, it seems they had no idea of what it was about before they watched it. As far as movies having to be 'believable', well, that isn't really what most cinema is about, now, is it. No one dances spontaneously like it's choreographed; spaceships don't travel past the speed of light; martial artists don't get to fight a whole crowd of opponents one at a time. So reality isn't what we're really after here, now is it? No. What we want is to go to a movie and feel good when we come out. And that's exactly what this film does, unless you can't stand the idea of a beautiful woman being gay and being happy. Which is what I suspect so many of the people who wrote the damning reviews feel. That said, well, I can't really comment on how good or bad the acting is; I can't really tell the difference between merely average or good acting, and great acting. But I can tell bad acting (think Chuck Norris in pretty much anything; nice guy, great martial artist, terrible actor), and this wasn't bad at all. In fact, I enjoyed every moment. I rate a movie on whether I will watch it again (I will), and how many times I want to hit the pause button to do something else, and I didn't stop the movie at all. Nine out of ten stars.
While watching "Gray Matters" - which marks the film-making debut of
writer/director Sue Kramer - I kept wondering if maybe I hadn't somehow
stumbled back into "Puccini for Beginners," a movie I'd seen a few
weeks earlier, since both are oddly similar, equally implausible tales
of Manhattan yuppies involved in romantic triangles of the bisexual
Gray and Sam are siblings who not only live in the same apartment and spend most of their free time together but are so emotionally attached to one another that people often mistake them for a romantic couple. As if that weren't queasy enough, the screenplay ups the ante by having the hitherto heterosexual Gray suddenly "discover" she's a lesbian when she falls for Sam's gorgeous new wife, Charlie (yes, I know all this can be a bit confusing, but Charlie is a woman).
As with "Puccini," most of what happens in "Gray Matters" feels contrived and artificial. We don't believe for a second that two seemingly rational people like Sam and Charlie would become engaged after only a single date, or that even an indecisive ditz like Gray would be this in-the-dark about her own sexuality.
Thus, with so little of the storyline grounded in anything even closely resembling reality, we find ourselves detached from the characters and indifferent to their fates. That's no denigration of the lead players - Heather Graham, Thomas Cavanaugh and Bridget Monahan - all of whom are appealing and likable in their various roles. And there are some sharp supporting performances by Molly Shannon, Alan Cumming, and Sissy Spacek as Gray's loopy therapist (though there is a brief cameo appearance by singer Gloria Gaynor that is pure unadulterated pandering). Moreover, New York City looks all sparkly and shiny as seen through the lens of cinematographer John S. Bartley's camera.
With its countless references to 40's musicals and romantic comedies, "Gray Matters" clearly sees itself as both an homage and a throwback to the metier and style of those earlier films. But we are obviously living in different times, and the labored setups and screwball comedy devices that worked so well in the past feel pretty darned anachronistic and forced when employed today. My feeling is that if you're going to make a modern romantic comedy, one that deals with such "contemporary" issues as coming out and sexual identity, then make a movie that actually feels modern. Don't try to tuck it safely away in the past, then expect us to take any of it seriously. Despite it's taking on those relatively gutsy issues, "Gray Matters" really doesn't exist in anyone's world, and certainly not in the racially and economically diverse world of 21st Century Manhattan.
"Gray Matters" presents us with life as only those in the movies ever really live it.
I just saw "Gray Matters" and found it to be not only funny but also
heartwarming. It was refreshing to finally see a romantic comedy that
had an original twist. I had no idea where it was going and was caught
off guard in a very good way.
Heather Graham is funny, Tom Cavanaugh relishes in this role, and can you blame them both for falling in love with the sexy Bridget Moynahan? Sue Kramer really knows how to keep the movie rolling, to make if funny when it's supposed to be funny and also touching in just the right moments. She got such great performances out of her actors. I can't believe this is her first movie that was released.
I left the movie with a smile on my face- how many times can you say that?
Unfortunately, the film is the mud as well as the gem. Two perfect
beauties, two usually miscast actors in roles that befit them, a rather
original script... it all should have gone great. However, the overall
directing of the movie is superficial, most of the support actors play
badly and the script oscillates between very good and very bad.
The idea of the movie was nice, the overall setup, but the ending just blew and the hysterical explosions of badly acted emotion over badly written lines were like giants craters in the road to liking the film.
Bottom line: if you are looking for a romantic comedy, this at least has some brain and a definite direction away from stereotypes, even if it doesn't avoid them all. But the quality of it isn't great.
Saw this with my brother, whom I hang out with often, too, so you can
say that we could sort of relate with the movie (except the part where
Gray is gay, though ;o))!
Gray (Heather Graham of The Guru, Boogie Nights) and Sam (Tom Cavanagh of Ed) are siblings who are so close that people think they are an item. They meet a beautiful zoologist Charlie (Bridget Moynahan) in a dog park and the three of them hit it off. Sam and Charlie's whirlwind romance gets them hitched, but matters get complicated when Gray and Charlie share a passionate kiss.
Graham still looks cute as a button despite being in her mid-thirties, but she looks like she's trying too hard in the acting department. It's as if she's trying to be a Cameron Diaz/Sandra Bullock but it's just not translating well on screen. But it is not all her fault; the editing could've been so much tighter, with the dialogue delivery less stilted.
While it is also unbelievable that thirtysomethings in this day and age still memorize the forties' dance routines of Fred and Ginger Astaire, it was nice to see the dance sequences of Gray and Sam, and of Gray and Charlie. Amazing how graceful the girls could be!
Alan Cumming as the Scottish cabbie was incredibly weird. I kept expecting him to turn into the X-Men's creepy Nightcrawler (was I the only one who thought this??). But he was funny dressed in drag, nonetheless.
All in all, this film felt like a long sitcom episode. Only Molly Shannon, ever the comic pro, who plays Gray's crazy officemate, delivered all the punchlines effortlessly and efficiently.
On the surface this may seem frivolous, a light, somewhat implausible comedy with affable characters. A girl lives with her brother. She finds herself attracted to his fiancé,and irony ensues. It is, in that respect, a bit formulaic. However, Graham gives a very moving, underrated performance here. I considered myself liberal enough. I favored civil unions, but that was all. I succumbed to the generalization that it was a reasonable compromise. But, I watched a girl crying in an elevator, relating to her brother that she couldn't be GAY because she could never have a normal life. She could never marry. It changed my mind. That is a performance worthy of note.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
First, the good: the cast is well-chosen for the most part. Heather
Graham immerses herself as Gray, and you really like and feel for her
character. You find yourself rooting for her. Tom Cavanagh is charming
and funny as Gray's brother Sam, Bridget Moynahan is good as Charlie,
the object of both Sam and Gray's affection, Alan Cumming is adorable
(except in drag) as Gray's cabbie friend, Molly Shannon is a riot (but
can also be taken as "annoying") as Gray's best friend and co-worker
Carrie, but Sissy Spacek is just plain SpaCEY as Sydney, Gray's
therapist. I think Heather Graham gets too much flack for playing
oversexed (or as some of my friends have said, "white trash-like"
roles), but as an actress, I've always thought that Graham was
under-rated. Heather's great as a supporting actress, but in "Gray
Matters," she proves that she can carry a film. Unfortunately, this was
the wrong film for her to carry.
This review is hard; overall, I enjoyed the film. I know that some people may find it hard to believe that some gays and lesbians have absolutely no idea they are gay until later in life. I know this may be true for some, though, but I think the film seriously lacks in this department. Can Gray's drunken kiss with Sam REALLY be her first ever inkling that she may be gay? For me, it's just hard to believe. Oh, but then she imagines a girl at a hot dog stand walking in her bra--oh, there's yet ANOTHER inkling! Bingo! She MUST be gay! It's just too hard to believe, and too contrived. Had the film focused more on how exactly Gray came to this realization so late in life would have been great to see. But, the way it is, it's too rushed. I mean, what went off in her head after she kissed Charlie? That's what the script robs us of finding out.
I'm not saying that the kiss between Graham and Moynahan wasn't hot--it definitely was--but this film needed more than that. Also, how on earth could Charlie NOT remember kissing Gray, but remember singing on stage with Gloria Gaynor? I'm sorry, even if you're Condellezza Rice, you'd STILL remember kissing Heather Graham, no matter how many drinks you had sucked back! I'd think that for Charlie, kissing a girl for (assumingly) the first time would be remembered instead. The film also falls flat with revealing how exactly Gray came to fall in love with Charlie.
I think the film also should have concentrated more on Gray's ultimate relationship with Julia Bartlett (the L Word's British beauty Rachel Shelley). Was it just a one night stand, etc. And, was sleeping with Julia(another thing that was omitted to stay PG-13) the final confirmation Gray needed that she is indeed gay.
As I said, I'm on the fence. I loved Gray's quirkiness, and Heather is absolutely beautiful throughout the film, but for me, I felt robbed by many aspects of the film. It could have been SO much more than it was.
I saw Gray Matters at the Hampton Film Festival and what a great choice I made. This movie is a must see. Molly Shannon is laughed out loud funny. Tom Cavanaugh and Heather Graham have amazing chemistry. Bridget Moynihan looks stunning. Alan Cumming and Sissy Spacek round out this unbelievable cast. I left this movie on such a high. Everyone who was walking out of the movie was saying how much they loved it from age 13 to an elderly couple and all ages in between. The scenes of Manhattan, music, dancing #'s, and most of all the acting and storyline were phenomenal. I was amazed to find out that this is a new director who also wrote the movie! I can't wait to see more of her work.
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