8/13/2007

Gray Matters

Director: Sue Kramer


When the film begins, we see Sam (the charming and comedic Thomas Cavanagh of TV’s Ed fame) and Gray (Heather Graham) in a joyful ballroom dance which immediately sets the tone for this bright, breezy and upbeat film. Instantly, we sense tangible chemistry between the leads and they seem to be the most perfect onscreen couple—one that cooks and eats together, laughs together, watches old movies together and lives together—until it is revealed that they are brother and sister. Suddenly Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in Shall We Dance turn into Fred Astaire and Jane Powell who played siblings in Royal Wedding. While Sam and Gray are much more co-dependent, like the characters in the classic musical (which in a sense is what Gray Matters feels like from start to finish), they realize they must move on with life and begin to look for romance and do so in a variety of ways while still wanting to remain close unlike most siblings that drift and evolve further apart as they age. Gray, who works alongside good friend Molly Shannon in an advertising firm where she’s underappreciated, spends her non Sam-related free time scheduling unorthodox therapy sessions with her athletically inclined shrink Sissy Spacek who prefers to stage her sessions in bowling alleys, rock climbing walls and batting cages. Shortly into the film, surgical intern Sam devises a trendy plan to find love by happening upon a beautiful woman (using Gray as his “wing-man” or more accurately “wing-woman” to misquote Swingers in which Graham also starred) in a dog park. Enter Charlie, the impossibly beautiful and classy zoologist Bridget Moynahan (who like Cavanagh was in another unfairly canceled television show Six Degrees), who recently moved from San Francisco and without much in the way of acquaintance, takes up Sam and Gray on their invitation for an evening of drinks, dinner and dancing. While sharing their love of old movies during a late night walk, Gray senses the chemistry between the two and goes home only to find her world turned upside-down the next day when Sam returns to announce that he and Charlie are engaged and planning to marry the upcoming weekend in Vegas. At first struck with disbelief at the improbability of such a whirlwind courtship, Gray soon finds herself without any worries of Charlie in regards to hidden agendas or ulterior motives and accompanies the happy couple, only to realize that she’s beginning to question her status as a heterosexual when she unexpectedly begins to develop romantic feelings for her soon to be sister-in-law. Frantically, she consults Spacek who tries to reassure her that her feelings are only those of jealousy about Charlie and feeling replaced in her close bond with Sam by another woman and she begins to launch headfirst into the scary dating world only to find herself even more confused until good-natured cabbie Alan Cumming befriends Gray and helps her discover her true self. While most critics said the film was too artificial, cutesy and much too far from reality, I found it to be a sheer delight from start to finish, never once worrying about logic-- I found myself forgiving that as I was entranced by the positive, pleasant atmosphere that echoed the old classic MGM musicals and romances Sam and Gray worship and in a way I suspected that that was the goal of first time writer/director Sue Kramer to make something in the style of an homage instead of creating yet another clich├ęd gay-coming-of-age film.