1/11/2007

Grace of My Heart

Director: Allison Anders
(1996)

Illeana Douglas turns in an amazing performance in this woefully underrated musical epic from Allison Anders as a young singer/songwriter who leaves her life of wealth, privilege and lady-like obedience for New York’s Brill Building, where she becomes a hit songwriter, falling in and out of love and embarking on a fascinating journey of self-discovery. Everything about this film is right on track, with the intense performances and the way it self-consciously parodies and draws inspiration from talented artists from that era including Carole King, Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and many others. Kudos are do to Anders as it never feels melodramatic-- the director infuses her film with heart, soul and feminism—- the authenticity of the piece goes way beyond the costumes and many women can still relate to it today. Deserving of a bigger following now that it has been released on DVD, Grace of My Heart is one of my favorite overlooked female directed gems and one of Anders’s very best. Some discussion was given to the fact that executive producer Martin Scorsese’s involvement may have guaranteed that his then-girlfriend Douglas was cast in the lead but she is a compelling performer, hitting the entire range of emotions for her character and the fact that she wasn’t such a huge Hollywood star but a winning character actress helped audiences totally buy her in the role. John Turturro provides amazing support, as does the rest of the cast but his scene by the swimming pool wherein he confronts Douglas about a recent tragedy, shows us once again why he is one of the most voracious and intense actors of his generation. Note: the infectious song, “God Give Me Strength,” was written and performed over the closing credits by Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach.