The year 1996 had two movies which covered the mid 60s pop scene Tom Hanks’ directorial debut That Thing You Do & Allison Anders Grace of My Heart both failed to connect with audiences in cinema’s but thankfully have a following on home video.
Grace, executive produced by her partner at the time Martin Scorsese, stars Illeana Douglas as Edna Buxton a Pennsylvanian steel heiress. She dreams of becoming a singer but her timing isn’t great as teenybopper boy bands are all the rage in the pop charts. Her career goals change when she meets John Turturros svengali Joel Milner who renames her Denise Waverly and becomes a songwriter for hire in Brill building like hit factory he runs.
While her writing career is very successful her personal life is less than rosy. Her relationship with Eric Stoltz’s beatnik producer, to her settling down with the Brian Wilson like genius played by Matt Dillon but sadly with tragic consequences.
The film inspired by Carole King’s life and work it’s an effective portrait of an artist struggling to find her place in the music industry that largely succeeds off the back of its measured performance by Douglas. Supported with memorable roles by Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davison, Matt Dillon, John Turturro and Patsy Kensit as a rival songwriter all of whom bring something of their own to the film and enhance it in unexpected ways.
Another performance worthy of note in a small scene is Bridget Fonda as ingenue singer Kelly Porter who’s got a squeaky clean image and has come to the hit factory for a song.
While it has an intelligent script written by Anders her direction sadly lacks focus and becomes repetitive. Shame it didn’t stick with the Waverly character over a shorter time span particularly the scenes where she is writing songs the process that she goes through was an interesting element.
The soundtrack features excellent songs by well known artists Burt Bacharach, Elvis Costello and Joni Mitchell trying to replicate the musical stylings of the New York factory of girl groups and acts like The Monkees.
Grace was a movie that for many years that British audiences could only get on VHS but due, thankfully, to Odyssey it’s available to buy on DVD it’s a movie that has to be seen by more people particularly if you are a fan of music industry set film.
Dir: Alison Anders
Scr: Alison Anders
Cast: Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Eric Stoltz, Bruce Davison, Matt Dillon, Bridget Fonda
Prd: Ruth Charny, Daniel Hassid,
D.O.P: Jean-Yves Escoffier
Music: Larry Klein
Run time: 116 minutes
Grace of my heart available on DVD from 15th of August