In Great Britain, there is a sub-genre of film comedy, most associated
with the Ealing Studios, that centered on a group of characters, often
unconventional ones, who encounter and eventually overcome a seemingly
insoluble problem. For example, the film might feature a local community
rallying together (as in TIGHT LITTLE ISLAND) or a cadre of criminals working
together (as in THE LADYKILLERS). Writer-star Craig Ferguson (best known
as the supercilious Mr. Wick on the ABC sitcom The Drew Carey Show) and
producer and co-writer Mark Crowdy have crafted SAVING GRACE a genial,
highly enjoyable comedy that puts a contemporary spin on that old tradition.
The setting is a somewhat remote fishing village on the Cornwall coast
where Grace Trevethan (Brenda Blethyn) is struggling to cope following the
sudden death of her husband. Grace was content to let her husband run all
aspects of their lives while she spent time tending to her prize-winning
orchids. Following his demise, she learns her philandering spouse left her
no money and a mountain of debt.
Coming to her rescue is her gardener/handyman Matthew (Ferguson),
a transplanted Scotsman who is in love with a local fisherwoman (Valerie
Edmond). Matthew enjoys a beer or two, but prefers to toke on his own
homegrown marijuana which he grows in the garden of the vicarage.
Recognizing that Grace has a green thumb, he asks her for help with an
ailing plant and within days, she's able to rejuvenate it. After dodging
creditors for as long as she can, Grace hits on the improbable idea
to replace her orchids with marijuana plants.
The ensuing merriment arises from a series of miscalculations and
misadventures. Having successfully grown a bumper crop, Grace sets out for
Portobello Road in London's Notting Hill dressed in the most tastefully
outrageous outfit where she tries to sell her wares. When she runs afoul
of the law, she has no one to turn to except her husband's mistress
Honey (Diana Quick). Through Honey's intervention, Grace and Matthew
hook up with the very intimidating Jacques (Tcheky Karyo), a serious
drug dealer who is impressed by Grace's spunk but who questions the
reality of her claims. Since the film actually has a moral center to it,
the ending, while a bit far-fetched, at least allows for all to have their
happily ever after.
SAVING GRACE is harmless fun. It doesn't promote the use of
marijuana but it also doesn't condemn it. Directed with wit by Nigel Cole
(who honed his craft on British series like Cold Feet), the film aims for
the funny bone and more often hits than misses. The performers clearly
relish their roles: the cast is uniformly excellent from Martin Clunes as
the local doctor who enjoys a good smoke to Valerie Edmond as the
no-nonsense fishing boat captain to Phyllida Law and Linda Kerr Scott
as a pair of nosy biddies who confuse Grace's new crop with tea.
Ferguson lends able support as Matthew and graciously lets his leading
lady shine. Brenda Blethyn, an actress who can be suitably heartbreaking
(SECRETS AND LIES) or blowzy (LITTLE VOICE), is perfect as the
somewhat sheltered Grace who blossoms under Matthew's tutelage.
She makes believable the character's journey from housewife to "drugs
dealer" (her phrase) and does so with humor and, well, grace.
SAVING GRACE may not be for everyone. It's decidedly English flair
and flavor may be off-putting to some and there may be those who will
object to a comedy built around marijuana, but the intent is to provide
harmless fun and the film more than accomplishes that: It leaves its
audience on a high.
MPAA Rating: R for drug content and language
Running time: 93 mins.
|© 2006 by C. E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.