By Monica Sullivan
I spent ten hours of my life this week watching "The Beatles Anthology". I don't know how much more thorough an in-house project could have been. It had every scarp of footage, with massive commentary by the group, their producer, their press officer and their tour manager. Yet I found myself recalling with increasing fondness, the devastating and very funny satire "All You Need Is Cash", made by Eric Idle and Neil Innes in 1978. Irreverent fiction sometimes does it better than the most scrupulously produced documentary.
Allison Anders' "Grace Of My Heart" pays tribute to the female songwriters of the sixties who slogged their youth away in tiny offices creating words and music for big stars to turn into hits. The two factors I most enjoyed about the film may work against it at the box office. Illeana Douglas, to me, is one of the great undiscovered treasures in movies today. In films like "Cape Fear", "Grief", "Search And Destroy" & "To Die For", Douglas has consistently turned in performances evocative of 40's "B" queens, but with a daffy, vulnerable twist all her own. Illeana aficionados won't be able to get of her in "Grace Of My Heart", but if she ain't your type, this movie won't be either, since she's in virtually every sequence. And if you're sick to death of the sixties, see something else!
Unfortunately, I attended a screening with a group of bickering critics who had trouble with the star, the subject or both AND they were disappointed by the songwriter's romantic choices. They also complained because the soundtrack was dubbed by vocalists. Hey, we're talking Allison Anders here, not some megabuck studio with a demographic survey team. Anders' script and direction are terrific, filled with realistic observations and deft touches missing in male-oriented rock films like the otherwise excellent "Stardust." John Turturro is exceptional as the no-nonsense producer, Bridget Fonda contributes a nice bit as a gay teen idol (her dad Peter was cut out of the film as Guru Dave, although his voice remains on the soundtrack) and Matt Dillon as a destructive genius sounds eerily like Dennis Hopper.
"Grace Of My Heart" is a charmingly gritty look at a grittily charming character. Regardless of what you may read about this one in print, give it a chance. Recommended for further research on video: "Girl Groups", crammed with colourful if not always accurate recollections as well as vintage clips of some terrific performances of that era. "Grace Of My Heart" opens nationally this week.
Copyright 1996 Monica Sullivan
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