gray matters

gray matters

2006
Written and Directed: Sue Kramer

First I saw the cast list. Heather Graham, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, Alan Cumming, Rachel Shelley. Gotta tell you, I got pretty damn excited, but this quirky romcom is very hit and miss. Those rare moments when it actually connects seem to belong to another film entirely - the one that stars Alan Cumming as a lonely taxi driver in New York who inconveniently falls in love with Heather Graham, the unattainable lesbian with an odd co-worker/best friend who gets seduced by her client. I kind of want to see that film instead.

But, let's look at this film. Heather Graham is Gray, a woman who works in advertising and has an unhealthy, co-dependent relationship with her older brother Sam (Tom Cavanagh). As fate would have it, they meet the girl of their dreams simultaneously in the form of Charlie (Moynahan). While Sam begins a blissful relationship with Charlie, Gray begins a downhill slide into self-doubt as she frets about why she's straight but so attracted to another woman.

The night before Sam and Charlie's wedding, Gray and Charlie have a fantastic night out in Vegas and share a drunken kiss, which rocks Gray's world but Charlie doesn't remember the next day. Cue lesbian angst, sibling rivalry and strange and unusual scenes with an overinvolved psychiatrist.

In a side plot, Gray's co-worker Molly Shannon (it doesn't matter what the character's name was, it was Molly Shannon), proceeds to spend all of her scenes being over the top and only-occasionally hilarious. The thing about Shannon is that she really doesn't need anyone else on-screen with her, or a plot either for that matter, and tends to avoid seriously interacting with either. She just does her normal hyperactive stand-up routine the same way she always does.

Then, when Gray's self-esteem is at an all-time low, she is persuaded to go to a lesbian bar and is hit on by her gorgeous client, Julia, played by Rachel Shelley who it seems can also really only play variations on one role. Gray realises that being gay could be kind of cool, if only she could get over her crush on the straight girl.

Then there's Allan Cumming as Gordy the Scottish taxi driver who guesses Gray's little secret and tries to philosophise her through it, but he's in that other movie I told you about, not in this one, at least not in any way that made sense to me.

What we're left with is a story about a girl who falls in love with a girl, and has a fight with her brother about it. Sam is such a goody-goody that he's difficult to stomach, and it's hard to believe the fiery Charlie has any reason to be with him. I wished he would just go away, not because he was standing in the way of a lesbian happy-ending (which actually would have made this film unbearable), but because he was so terribly boring.

Upsides? The film is a stunner to look at, just because a cast of this magnitude guarantees some funding. Heather Graham pours her little heart into it, as she does with everything, but her performance here has more in common with Austin Powers 2 than Boogie Nights.

Writer/Director Sue Kramer wrote the story about her sister, and it does have that ring of a personal project to it, something that means so awfully much to the director that they could not bear to part with a single lovingly-crafted scene.

Unfortunately, it needed some distance. Kramer should have written another draft, excised a character or two, lightened up on the zany comic relief and added some heart, and we could perhaps have had something special here. Not even Rachel Shelley working a business suit and an excellent pick up line, or Graham and Moynahan sharing a tune and a sizzling kiss, can save this. And that says a lot coming from me, since I would watch anything for a sizzling kiss, ask anybody.

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