Grace Of My Heart

on September 13, 1996 by Susan Lambert
Filmmaker Allison Anders has always made personal films about other people. First with "Gas, Food Lodging" and then with "Mi Vida Loca," she presented uniquely uncompromising views of modern American women living on the verge of society and the brink of another broken heart. With "Grace of My Heart," Anders brings her vision home in her most personal--and most successful--outing to date.
   Set against the backdrop of the late '50s and '60s music scene, the film follows Edna Buxton ("To Die For's" Illeana Douglas), who heads to the big city to be a singer. There, she meets manager Joel Milner (John Turturro), who changes her name and helps make her a successful songwriter. Now known as Denise Waverly, she lives through a succession of men, the changing times and evolving music styles to finally come into her own as a singer and songwriter. Douglas gives an exceptional performance. She is witty and wise, efficient in capturing the torture and toughness of a woman who has always been told she doesn't fit. Turturro is hilarious and surprisingly warm, the standout in an exceptional cast that also includes terrific characterizations by Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz and Bruce Davison as the men who can be counted on to disappoint--standard players in an Anders film.
   Even when her films lose their forward momentum, bogged down by the need to be about too many things, Anders manages to make them intrinsically watchable. The final saving grace of the film is a fun and fabulous soundtrack, with songs by the likes of Los Lobos, Joni Mitchell, Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach. Unfortunately, the film is ultimately too ambitious for its own designs. The story gets lost in the '60s and almost doesn't find its way back. As our heroine loses herself in each man, so too does the film wander off. At once inspiring and disappointing, often romantic and occasionally raw, "Grace of My Heart" is exceptional filmmaking despite, or perhaps even because of, the flaws. Starring Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon and Eric Stoltz. Directed and written by Allison Anders. Produced by Ruth Charny and Dan Hassid. A Gramercy release. Rated R for language, and for some sexuality and drug content. Running time: 110 min.
Tags: Illeana Douglas, John Turturro, Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz, Allison Anders, Ruth Charny, Dan Hassid, A Gramercy, fabulous, torture, toughness, uncompromising, songwriter, 50s, 60s

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