gray matters


Written and Directed: Sue Kramer

Normally if I heard the names Heather Graham, Bridget Moynahan, Molly Shannon, Alan Cumming and Rachel Shelley in a cast list for a lesbian-themed film I'd be pretty damned excited, but I'm here to tell you that you shouldn't get too worked up about this one. In a 90+ minute extravaganza of hits and misses, I'm afraid this is 90% misses. 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 tragically falls in love with Heather Graham, the unattainable lesbian with a quirky co-worker/best friend who gets seduced by her client. Actually I want to see that film rather than this one.

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

Things come to a head the night before Sam and Charlie's wedding when Gray and Charlie have a fantastic night out in Vegas (including a rocking duet to I Will Survive) and share a drunken kiss, which rocks Gray's world but that Charlie doesn't remember the next day. Queue lesbian angst, sibling rivalry and strange and unusual scenes with an overinvolved psychiatrist.

In an odd side plot, Gray works in an advertising agency with co-worker Mollay Shannon (it doesn't matter what the character's name was, it was Molly Shannon), who 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, just 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 (this is more second season Helena Peabody with a heart) and 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 really, at least not in any way that made sense to me.

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

So there you have it - a film that has much to offer in the way of production values (I mean, just look at the photos - compared to most other low-budget indie lesbian films this is a stunner!) it has style, casting, the occassional witty scene, but not much else. Heather Graham pours her little heart into it, as she does with everything she does, but her performance here has more in common with her over-the-top character in Austin Powers 2 than her nuanced role as RollerGirl in Boogie Nights. There comes a point, basically around the time Gray starts embarrassing herself in every scene, when you feel like crying out "Enough already! Slow down! Take some time to explore the character!"

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, and some story polish. Kramer should have done another draft of the screenplay, excised a character or two, lightened up on the zany comic relief and added some heart, and we could perhaps have had something here.

Instead, we have two movies, one unremarkable and one quirky, that explode in the middle and then fizzle into nothingness. 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 one. And that says a lot coming from me since I would watch anything for a sizzling kiss, ask anybody.

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Last updated: 18 January 2010