By Amy Lamare, February 3, 2007
I really wanted to like Gray Matters (GRAYM). In fact there were things about this film that I did like. It’s cute premise and the rat-a-tat-tat pace that lent itself well to the Manhattan setting. It’s likeable cast. Heather Graham’s (HGRAM) dress in the opening tango sequence. Actually all of the costume design and wardrobe department people can come organize my own wardrobe any day they want. The clothes were fabulous. And finally, they pronounced Nevada correctly for the first time I can remember on television and film.
(For the record it’s Nev-ADD-a. It is not and has never been Nev-ODD-a. Yes, that is my home state. Which means I know. So, memo to the world: Stop pronouncing the name of the Silver State incorrectly. Thank you.)
Unfortunately kudos to the clothes is the highest praise I can offer this pic. The list of things that dragged the film down into the abyss of awful cinematic experiences is lengthy and substantial. Inexcusably poor execution of excellent premise. Stiff, overly rehearsed, artificial performances. Heather Graham coming off as too earnest, too neurotic for a WASP, too unbelievably brainless… Bridget Moynahan (BMOYN) spending too much time undressed… Tom Cavanaugh channeling a less interesting version of his TV character Ed… Don’t even get me started on Molly Shannon’s (MSHAN) interpretation of her character. Why, oh why, do we face the bazillionth rom-com with characters being ad execs? Is there no other career in the land of rom-com? Irritatingly inexplicable jumps in the plot-the dangling participle of story telling. I could continue, but I won’t.
Look, I realize this seems incredibly harsh, but go back and take a look at our archives. I approach reviewing with the attitude that no film can fail completely and totally. Even a film that fails has some positive attributes. This one comes very very close to being a total failure. Only the wardrobe can be credited as a positive. But it only gets ½ a point because of the frumpy ill-fitting get-ups Graham wears in the scenes she shares with Moynahan so that we can see that Charlie is supposed to be the perfect woman – deduct ¼ point there. The other ¼ a point is for anything Molly Shannon is wearing. Her manic crazy eyed Mary Katherine Gallagher all grown up and more annoying than ever distracts from the cute dresses showing off her nicely toned arms and shoulders. Too much crazy, not enough cotton pique people.
Graham plays Gray, Cavanaugh plays Sam. They share a love of 40s movies and the film opens with the pair dancing a la Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. They finish each others sentences. They are comfortable together and seem to be the perfect couple. They are at home when Molly Shannon calls and invites them to a dinner party where an unsuspecting guest asks them how long they’ve been together. Cavanaugh handles it tidily; friends titter and twitter with laughter. Graham, as bug eyed as a pug, acts as if she’s never heard anyone refer to Sam and her as a romantically involved couple. Now suddenly, this one stranger’s assumption throws this hyper little hummingbird named Gray into overdrive. A plan is hatched: they must find each other mates and end this co-dependant, slightly creepy co-existence of theirs.
Enter Moynahan as Charlie. She is a zoologist doing an internship locally. She’s just moved to Manhattan from San Francisco. She doesn’t know anyone. Sam is smitten. Gray is starting to look smitten. Then confused. Then smitten. Her facial expressions and bouncing about come across as if she has to pee badly with no restroom in sight. The threesome make plans for that night. Enter standard rom-com montage o’ fun. See them do shots. See Gray and Charlie dance. See Sam react to the blatantly sensual overtones between his sister and his date. See Sam enter the dance. Cut to walk home. Gray can’t take the hint that Sam and Charlie would like some alone time. She is forcibly removed from their date.
Next morning. Sam enters. Gray remarks that he must have gotten home late, she didn’t hear him come in. He says he’s just getting home now. Oh and by the way, he asked Charlie to marry him and she said yes. Yes, that Charlie, the one he met like 3 minutes ago. Cue inexcusably poor execution of excellent premise that has cute twist on sibling rivalry.
Cut to Vegas. Bride and soon to be sister-in-law in a cheesy club that looks like it has not been redecorated since 1979. Gloria Gaynor is on stage and announces that they have a special guest. Charlie is coerced up on stage and she and Gloria do a duet of “I Will Survive.”
Next scene: hotel room. Charlie stumbles in obviously sloppy drunk and collapses on the bed. Gray encourages her to undress. And this is when it happens. When the camera is trained on Moynahan sitting on the bed in her lacy boy-short panties. No top. The skeleton of horror is revealed. Seriously, she is a skeleton with skin only. Someone needs to hold this gal down and force feed her some lard.
Now let’s get back to Graham’s performance for a moment. Miss Graham comes across as someone with a serious amphetamine problem. Her entire character summary can be shortened to this: Graham’s Gray is a Barbie doll whose parents are Skipper and the spawn of Satan doll Chuckie.
Let’s go back to the hotel room in Vegas. Gray and Charlie share a drunken make out session that has Gray convinced she is gay. Problem is Charlie doesn’t remember or is pretending not to remember. Sam and Charlie get married. Gray has angst. She’s so neurotic you want to check her WASP family tree. Neurosis as thick as Gray’s can only be delivered via one method: A Jewish mother.
Do I need to go on? Gray searches frantically throughout the film for a place she belongs other than by her brother’s side. She wants to know she matters. The problem is, as the film is rendered Gray does not matter at all. Unless you are trying to give yourself a headache. Then by all means, have at it.
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