Saving Grace

“Saving Grace” strives to be one of those cute, charming foreign imports like “The Full Monty” and “Waking Ned Devine.” It’s set in a picturesque Cornish village, and features a colorful gallery of characters who do unexpected things.

Unlike those other comedies, “Saving Grace” never reaches the same high, which is ironic considering it’s subject matter.

savinggraceIt stars a totally adorable Brenda Blethyn as Grace, a recent widow still trying to figure out how her late husband met his fate. Living quietly in a comfortable estate, Grace is also trying to reconcile the fact that her late husband was also involved in an affair. It’s a lot to take in, but that’s not the kicker.

It also seems that her late husband has left Grace totally broke, with liens against the home and collector’s ready to swoop in like vultures. At first Grace is unaware of the situation. Her grief has kept her from opening the mail or answering the phone. When the locals start treating her like a charity case (her attempt to drop a few coins in a collection box is good for a few laughs), Grace gets wise.

It’s the perfect set-up to place a good natured, kind hearted soul like Grace in a position of complete desperation. A corner so tight that she will do anything to get out of it. Inspiration comes from her gardener Matthew (Craig Ferguson, co-writer of the script), a nice guy who keeps working for Grace even though she can’t pay him.

In return for his services, Matthew asks Grace, who has been blessed with a green thumb, to help nurse his marijuana plants back to health. Not only does Grace agree to help, she sees the plants as a way out of her dilemma. With Matthew’s help, Grace decides to grow enough high grade marijuana to save her home.

It’s a charming idea, one not fully realized by the writers or director. The dialogue is light and at times lyrical, but not as sharp or observant as it should be. Writers Ferguson and Mark Crowdy want to have their cake and eat it too, and it doesn’t always work. Their attempt at providing the film with a moral compass is weak and forced.

Grace and Matthew don’t need to be told what they are doing is illegal. They know it, and while director Nigel Cole doesn’t stand on a soapbox, the message is loud and clear. “Saving Grace” isn’t a pro-marijuana film. It’s a film about a woman who sees a light at the end of a very dark and desperate tunnel, and it just happens to be a grow lamp. Cheech and Chong this is not.

Blethyn is fabulous as Grace, a woman who knows right from wrong, and is still willing to do the wrong thing. When she eventually realizes what she has wrought, she doesn’t hesitate for a moment to set things right. There’s real strength in her Grace.

Ferguson is also a delight as Matthew. Like his character in “The Big Tease,” which he also co- wrote, Matthew is a good guy, a man of honor and hope. He knows what he is doing is wrong, but wants a better life for his girlfriend Nicky, a local fisherman.

Valerie Edmond is sweet as Nicky, the voice of reason. Nicky loves Matthew dearly, but when she learns what he’s up to, she’s willing to make a stand. It’s a difficult role, because Edmond is the film’s moral mouthpiece, yet she makes Nicky less judgmental than the words she’s forced to say.

The village is filled the kind of colorful characters one might expect from such fare, including two old biddies who help themselves to some of Grace’s special “tea” and end up stoned. I especially liked Martin Clunes as the local doctor, who understands the medicinal values of the marijuana, and Ken Campbell as the local constable who isn’t as clueless as he seems. There is also a funny subplot about how the town gathers every evening to watch the skies light up over the hill at Grace’s house.

It’s a shame that director Cole and the writers couldn’t find anything more interesting to do with the characters than the obvious. Sure it’s funny to watch old people get stoned. When Grace asks Matthew to turn her on so she knows what she’s dealing with, her high is funny and somewhat touching. When the filmmakers repeat the gag over and over, it becomes tiresome.

When Grace gets involved with a local gangster, the film loses all focus and becomes a farce. It’s all downhill from there. What could have been a quaint little film self destructs into a third-rate Monty Python skit.

The film looks bright and cheery, and makes good use of the local color. I liked the soundtrack, a perfect blend of international tunes that perfectly compliment the film. I would buy the CD. I just wish I could buy the rest of the film. Those with low expectations won’t feel shortchanged. Those expecting another “Fully Monty” will feel exposed.

JOINT VENTURELikeable cast of characters can’t light up comedy


Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clues, Tcheky Karo, Valerie Edmond, Ken Campbell in a film directed by Nigel Cole. Rated R. 93 Minutes.


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