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Tuesday, 2 December 1997

Grace of my Heart

From the mid fifties through to the late sixties the Brill building in New York was the home of a thriving musical community, and no-one was more vital to its' stream of hit records than songwriters like Enda Buxton (Illeana Douglas). She left Philadelphia for New York with the hope of becoming a singer, but manager Joel Millner (John Turturro) wanted her for her songs, and before long she was churning out the hits for $150 a week. She also became Denise Waverly - her rich-girl past didn't sit well with her gritty urban lyrics - and it was as Denise that she met Howard (Eric Stoltz) who was first her writing partner, then her husband, then the father of her child, then - after he cheated on her - her ex-husband. And that was just the first in a very long series of heartbreaks as she travelled through the music business during the sixties - she'd write hit after hit, she'd make friends out of enemies (Patsy Kensit), she'd marry a spaced-out teen idol (Matt Dillon), but she'd never be happy until she could sing her own songs.

This tale of triumph over (a lot of) tragedy is perhaps a bit too downbeat for some, though there are quite a few laughs scattered throughout, and not just from the appalling hairstyles on the heads of the male cast. On the surface this may not look like a chick flick, despite writer/director Allison Anders being responsible for films like Gas Food Lodging and Mia Vida Loca, but any film where all the male romantic interests are scum (well, maybe not complete scum, but not exactly good guys either) sure isn't a film for the guys, but at least this has a lot more to it than something like Waiting to Exhale. Buxton's story, while interesting, is never really involving enough to draw you in despite a great performance from Douglas (after a while her heartbreak becomes a little too predictable), but the music's catchy, the acting's fine, and overall this is likeable enough to make it worth a look. Anyway, where else are you going to see J Mascis, someone playing the theremin, and Bridget Fonda in a cameo as a lesbian in the same film?

Anthony Morris

(this review appeared in Forte #133)

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