LOUDER THAN WORDS

(ARC ENTERTAINMENT/IDENTITY FILMS (93 minutes, Rated PG-13); 2014)

LOUDER THAN WORDS

For me, ambivalence is not an option for a film like LOUDER THAN WORDS; either I like such fare very much or hate it vehemently. I knew that the script was based on a true story which, depending on the screenwriter, the director, the principal stars and – yes – the subject matter, could signal disaster or thought-provoking, uplifting confirmations about life, family and the inherent good within each of us. The first few minutes of LOUDER THAN WORDS had me leaning toward disaster… to the point that I nearly hit the “stop” button on the remote. But, I hung in and, thankfully, was rewarded with story about life and death and family dynamics that seem, in some part, to reflect each of us.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (David Duchovny and Hope Davis) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (David Duchovny and Hope Davis) (publicity still)

So, is LOUDER… perfect? No, the movie definitely has problems, which I’ll address shortly. First, though, here’s the basic gist of the story (no spoilers here, as the story has been well documented): John and Brenda Fareri (played by David Duchovny and Hope Davis) are a well-to-do couple devastated after the loss of their 13 year old daughter, Maria (Olivia Steele-Falconer), to a rare strain of rabies. Maria, a vibrant and loving child, was the glue that held the Ferari family unit together. John – always the thoughtful, quiet one – seems to become more insular and withdrawn, alienating Brenda and their other children (from Brenda’s previous marriage), triplets Stephanie, Michael and Julie (Adelaide Kane, Ben Rosenfield and Morgan Griffin), each grieving in their own fashion and wondering why the man they call Father has abandoned them. At one point, one of the girls tells her Mother that she fels like things are back to the way they were before John became a part of their family: Like they didn’t have a Father. John gains focus when he decides to build a new children’s hospital to better serve the needs of the whole family and to make the kids feel – if not at home – a little more comfortable about their hospital stay. Of course, everybody thinks that John has driven off the rails somewhere, including city leaders, rich friends and the consultant (Bruce Komiske, played by Timothy Hutton) he hires to help bring his dream to fruition. An eventual kitchen showdown between Brenda and John allows both to vent and gain a modicum of understanding of the pain the other is feeling. From there, it isn’t a great stretch to bring Brenda and the three kids on board and start the ball (and donations) rolling. The previous despair is replaced by a sense of hope and a desire to help others in the Fareri’s situation.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Olivia Steele-Falconer) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Olivia Steele-Falconer) (publicity still)

The film is narrated by Maria, who is initially seen riding her bicycle on a beautiful fall day (or, maybe, she’s in Heaven). I originally found this premise a bit dubious, to say the least but, as the story progresses, it seems somehow natural that she would be the one to tell this story. LOUDER THAN WORDS encompasses approximately seven years, boiled down into a compact 90-minute package; and, therein, lies the bulk of my problems with the movie. Sometimes it just seems too much like watching MTV on speed for its own good. The film bounces back and forth between past and present, generally via family remembrances, with too many quick cuts and edits and little “black-out” vignettes meant to move the story forward as quickly as possible. Producer Anthony Mastromauro says, in the “behind the scenes” bonus feature, I think any time you’re telling a story that spans a number of years, the non-linear structure can work in your favor.” Or not, sir. While I did find the movie engaging and the story a great affirmation of life, I would very much have preferred a more traditional, linear telling (which the film does revert to eventually) and, maybe, about another 30-minutes to flesh out a few of those frustrating vignettes.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Timothy Hutton, Hope Davis and David Duchovny) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Timothy Hutton, Hope Davis and David Duchovny) (publicity still)

Some of John’s flashback sequences are akin to Agent Mulder’s search for his sister (and the truth, which is out there… or so we’re told) in THE X FILES. And, now that I think about it, the hospital where Maria dies kinda looks like one of those draped-in-shadows secret government facilities that Scully and Mulder would occasionally find themselves searching for that truth. As is often the case with a death in the family (particularly a young child), the survivors each handle the loss in their own way. The Fareri family’s coping mechanisms may seem a bit over the top, but… try to put yourself in their shoes (heck, you may have been in those shoes yourself once). I haven’t lost a child, but I watched my Mother go through it twice; it’s a pain that never goes away. So, anyway… the kids are suitably sullen; Brenda is devastated, confused and angry… in that order; John is, first, zombie-like, then, inconsolable and, finally, driven. With Bruce Komiske on board, John and he begin to knock on the doors of the wealthy and the powerful. At one point, a consultant mentions that the best way to build a new hospital is by putting a donor’s name on the building; John steadfastly declares that the hospital will bear his daughter’s name. That is the attitude that has his family and friends, at first, questioning his sanity and, later, joining him in the fight to give these children and their families a state-of-the-art facility, as well as a sense of hope.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Ben Rosenfield, Hope Davis, David Duchovny, Morgan Griffin and Adelaide Kane) (publicity still)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (Ben Rosenfield, Hope Davis, David Duchovny, Morgan Griffin and Adelaide Kane) (publicity still)

Duchovny’s performance is understated, sometimes to the point that he appears to be mumbling his lines; he very rarely raises his voice, but when he does, it’s with authority and passion. The sincerity in the faces and eyes of Duchovny, Davis and Hutton are real. In the “behind the scenes” documentary, they each declare how much they believed in this story and how much they believed that it was one that should be told… standard quotes for any actor about any of their projects. This time, though, that same sincerity is in their eyes. They aren’t just giving lip service, they really mean it. Rosenfield, Kane and Griffin play the lost and hurting triplets as if they’re walking through a very bad dream; and, that’s exactly what it feels like, especially when you feel like you’ve lost your parents, too. Olivia Steele-Falconer, at times, seems to be in over her head and overreaching to compensate but, when it’s all said and done, she delivers a moving performance. The Fareri family were all involved in the production of LOUDER THAN WORDS and, I couldn’t imagine how hard that must have been, particularly when they would see this little girl playing their daughter and the uncanny resemblance to Maria.

LOUDER THAN WORDS (The Maria Fareri Children's Hospital; Maria in inset) (uncredited photos)

LOUDER THAN WORDS (The Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital; Maria in inset) (uncredited photos)

So, I told you that it wasn’t perfect and I stated my reasons for that assessment. If you don’t feel the same way I do about the editing style and non-linear storytelling, then by all means, you should check out LOUDER THAN WORDS. It truly is a story that had to be told.


JESSE

(DVD and Digital; ARC ENTERTAINMENT (86 minutes/Rated R); produced 2011, released 2014)

Jesse 2D

JESSE is the story of a troubled cop seeking peace in a bottle… actually, several bottles. She has recently returned home only to become the third cog in a severely dysfunctional family wheel, alongside her dope smoking (and very loud) mother and her dope selling (and very large) brother. When her brother goes missing – except for a foot – Jesse (played to the “Jersey Jewish Princess” hilt by Stephanie Finochio, a former professional wrestler known as Trinity) seeks retribution on the Mafia types who she believes killed him because he owed them more than ten thousand dollars in gambling debt. Along the way, she meets several dubious characters and an even greater number of dubious bottles of booze. Eric Roberts shows up (as he is wont to do) as a sympathetic bartender who recognizes Jesse from a news report about her walking into a market (or a liquor store… who knows with her) in the middle of a robbery. The bad guys yell at her; she doesn’t care for that, so… she shoots them, becoming an instant hero. Of course, she has sex with the bartender.

JESSE (Stephanie Finochio) (publicity still)

JESSE (Stephanie Finochio) (publicity still)

After threatening the mob guys with various kinds of pain and suffering, she goes home to find that her mother has been savagely beaten. Her next stop? A gun store where she purchases an over-the-counter cure for her problems: A sawed-off shotgun. After a series of strange sidetracks that muddle the plot and do nothing to move the story along, Jesse finds out about a meeting of several of the racketeers she believes are responsible for the discomfort recently visited upon her brother and mother (and ex-dog). Upon arriving at the scene, she discovers… her brother (minus one foot – in a brilliant strategical move, he amputated his own foot as part of a moneymaking scheme to sell his product at sports memorabilia shows, disguised as collectible baseball cards). Brother Mitchell (played by bad actor Mitchell Walters, swimming in a rancid cesspool of bad actors) is busy scamming the crew he used to scam the guys that wanted him dead… but, that was all a scam, too. Guess who gets the first shotgun blast from Jesse. So now, Mitchell has a hole in him almost as big as the plot of this film.

A JESSE gallery (Tamara Markowitz; Richard Lampese, Anthony Trentacosta and Dave M Lipsky; Stephanie Finochio and Michael Wright) (publicity stills)

A JESSE gallery (Tamara Markowitz; Richard Lampese, Anthony Trentacosta and Dave M Lipsky; Stephanie Finochio and Michael Wright) (publicity stills)

It all sounds like fun, huh? Yeah… it’s all fun and games ’til someone loses a foot. Or until you have to sit through JESSE. To be fair, I really wanted to like this movie… the premise sounded so promising. So, thinking that I may be wrong or having a bad day or whatever, I asked a friend to watch JESSE, too. He made it through less than five minutes before shutting the thing off, declaring, “You’re kidding, right? I can’t handle any more of this screeching. It’s like watching JERSEY SHORE. Except those people were less annoying.” I don’t know; I guess somewhere there’s somebody who’s gonna watch this thing and think it’s the greatest flick they’ve ever seen. Maybe Snooki, if she gets her ADD under control. Wait… that’s it! Everybody involved in this movie obviously suffers from ADD and were off their meds! No, that theory doesn’t fly because Eric Roberts, Armand Assante and William Forsythe (generally fine actors if they’re given a decent script) are in it. Okay… I got it: Everybody but those three suffers from ADD; Assante, Forsythe and Roberts were paid truckloads of money to appear in an attempt to class up the proceedings. But, even they shoulda realized that you can’t shine a turd. No matter how hard you rub, you just end up getting it all over your hands. And on your resume. If you must watch, please place all sharp objects out of your reach. That way, you won’t be tempted to jab things in your eyes or ears to make JESSE go away.


AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY

(NASSER ENTERTAINMENT (90 minutes/Unrated); 2014)

Amber Alert 2D_Flat

This movie (which, apparently, was originally released in January 2009 as DESPERATE HOURS: AN AMBER ALERT) is one-half police procedural, one-half infomercial for the Amber Alert System and… one-half AFTERSCHOOL SPECIAL cautionary tale, one-half Lifetime movie melodrama. So, that’s… what? Five-eighths of what this movie’s about. That means that the other two-sevenths of the flick are all about Tom Berenger, who – of course – starred in the greatest movie ever made (make that “The Greatest Movie Ever Made”), RUSTLERS’ RHAPSODY (who you gonna believe… those stuffed shirts at the AFI or yours truly?).

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Tom Berenger) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Tom Berenger) (publicity still)

Alright… seriously, AMBER ALERT… is co-written and co-produced by reserve police officer Joseph Nasser, so he knows what he’s talking about. Of course, without everything else (teen angst and teen relationships that would embarrass Stephenie Meyer; good looking but woefully misunderstood kids, creepy looking but woefully misunderstood three-time-loser bad guy, highly driven but woefully misunderstood chief of police; horribly dysfunctional family dynamics), this movie would be a very dry educational film for police academy cadets. I’m not gonna kid you; there’s plenty wrong with this movie (mostly in the editing and an overtly melodramatic script) but… I found myself engrossed in the story. I mean… I knew how the thing was gonna play out, I just wasn’t sure how we were gonna get there. I think the fact that someone with police training had a hand in writing and producing the movie gave it a more realistic feel – at least outside of the histrionics heaped upon us by a couple of truly over-the-top performances and one “better check her pulse… she may be dead” performance. So, here’s the who, what and why about the good, the bad and the ugly of AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY:

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Britt McKillip and Genevieve Buechner) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Britt McKillip and Genevieve Buechner) (publicity still)

Berenger stars as Edward Larsan, the newly paroled loser who, determined to take back what was his (wife, daughter, house, beer), begins his new life by robbing some campers, stealing a car and holding up a convenience store (his haul is two bottles of booze, a carton of smokes, a handful of money, a bouquet of flowers and a rag doll belonging to the clerk’s daughter). He shows up at his ex-wife’s (Dana McLoughlin) door with the flowers and the doll for his daughter… it just happens to be her birthday… her 18th birthday. Rebuked by his ex, Larsan takes to the road again to clear his head. A blow-out seems to be the last straw but, thankfully, he’s still got the booze. Because that fixes everything, right? While drowning his sorrows at a local lovers’ lane kinda teen hangout sorta place, Larsan watches as a couple of girls pull up, hoping to run into a couple of cute guys. These girls have just what ol’ Larsan needs… and, we all know what that is, right? Yup, you got it: A ride. He snatches the driver (Jessica Parker Kennedy) out of the front seat, telling the other girl, Debra (Genevieve Buechner), to get to the back of the vehicle… or else. A lot of whimpering ensues, as the first girl’s mouth and eyes are duct-taped shut and she’s led away, to be duct-taped (man, that stuff sure is handy, huh?) to a fence. Before Larsan can do the same to Debra, another vehicle arrives on the scene: A truck containing Pete and Katie (Tyler Johnston and Britt McKillip). Katie is upset that her mother won’t allow her to go to Italy with her friends over spring break; Pete is pretending to be sympathetic… hey, he is a 17 year old boy, after all. Larsan introduces Pete to his weapon, takes the kid’s money and his girl (after duct-taping him to the steering wheel of his truck and threatening to come back, find him and kill him if the cops are called). But, what 17 year old ever listens to their elders? Certainly not Pete, who somehow manages to dial 911.

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Torri Higginson and Alexander Mendeluk) (publicity still)

AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY (Torri Higginson and Alexander Mendeluk) (publicity still)

An incredulous dispatcher (BJ Harrison) takes the call, prudently deciding that “better safe than sorry” should be the ruling axiom in this instance and dispatches (thus, her title) a squad car. Enter: Police Chief Geiger (played by Torri Higginson, who’s performance is so laconically laid back, it makes Cesare, the somnambulist from THE CABINET OF DOCTOR CALIGARI look like an excited chihuahua by comparison), who agrees with dispatcher Carla that it’s more than likely a prank. Nonetheless, she asks to be kept informed, as any good chief of police would. The cops are shocked… shocked, I tell you… when they find the 911 caller duct-taped to his vehicle. They eventually find the other driver and her duct tape. At this point, Edward Larsan is in possession of a (second) stolen vehicle, this one with the added feature of two teenage girls – one of them only 17 years old – duct-taped and cowering in the back floorboard. Back at the make-out rendezvous, Chief Geiger pulls out all of the stops: Since one of the girls is still under-age, she calls her superiors to get the okay for an Amber Alert. As she’s jumping through some rather obnoxious hoops, Larsan is just discovering the error in judgment of kidnapping two teenage girls. And, I’m not talking about their incessant giggling and air-raid-siren-level squealing whenever their favorite song comes on the radio; nope, upon hearing that an Amber Alert has been issued after the carjacking and kidnapping, he realizes that he may have, indeed, managed to cook his own goose. He curses and beats the steering wheel as one girl whimpers in the back and the other plans his demise and their escape. Needless to say, except for some truly bad acting and unintentionally humorous dialogue, hilarity does not ensue. That’s where I stop telling you what comes next because I don’t wanna blow the ending for you. Except this: In a totally bizarre plot twist/secondary storyline, Chief Geiger has an estranged son (Alexander Mendeluk) who is – I am not making this up – dating Debra but, as far as I can tell, the little light bulb of recognition never goes off over anybody’s head that these people have a connection. So… there ya go: AMBER ALERT: TERROR ON THE HIGHWAY ain’t great but, it ain’t totally without some merits; view at your own risk.


LULLABY

(DVD, Digital and Video-On-Demand; AVENUE PICTURES/ARC ENTERTAINMENT (117 minutes/Rated R); 2014)

LULLABY

I’m gonna let you guys into my life and my head and my heart for a little bit. I’m a sensitive guy… no, really, I am. Movies like this one touch me. I shed a tear or two watching LULLABY. Why? Good story, good acting? Partly, but the main reason is this: The underlying premise of the movie is something that is very near to me (I can’t say “dear” because… CANCER SUCKS!). In a span of approximately 10 years, I lost my father, my sister and my brother to cancer. My brother-in-law, a couple of beloved uncles and an aunt, too, during that same period; my sister-in-law succumbed to liver failure, as well. In the middle of all of that, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. I act as her caregiver… I’m the only one left. I watch her die a little bit more each day. I’ve spent far too many days in hospital rooms and funeral homes and I know that I’ve got more of both in my future. Look… I’m not complaining. I’m just using my experiences as a reference point for a review of the movie, LULLABY. Knowing these things may help you understand (at least a bit) where I’m coming from in regards to this film.

LULLABY (Garrett Hedlund) (publicity still)

LULLABY (Garrett Hedlund) (publicity still)

Garrett Hedlund leads a strong ensemble cast as Jonathan, the wayward son of a well-to-do family. LULLABY is a bitter-sweet coming-of-age story for Hedlund’s character. Jonathan is coming home after several years; his cancer-stricken father has decided to end his suffering. In short, the father (brilliantly played by Richard Jenkins) is – according to the statutes of the State of New York – committing suicide, with the assistance of his well-meaning doctor (Terrance Howard in a small role that amounts to no more than a couple of short cameos… what Howard does with those cameos speaks to the power of, not only his talents, but those of the entire cast). Jonathan reluctantly returns, telling his mother (Anne Archer), “He’s been dying for twelve years!” and asking, “Why is this time any different?” When she explains his father’s plan, Jonathan, enraged, storms out of the room. Taking refuge in the hospital’s stairwell, he lights a cigarette (he seems always to be getting into trouble for smoking in places where it’s prohibited… the film opens with him lighting up in the airplane restroom and, later, he walks into the hospital lobby and lights another smoke… both scenes are actually pretty funny) and practices a little primal screaming. He soon discovers, however, that he isn’t alone; a couple of flights above is a young woman who, like his father, is dying of cancer. Meredith (Jessica Barden) is a wise-beyond-her-years high school senior who hides her pain and fear behind a tough facade; when she asks for a cigarette, Jonathan gives her a look. “What? You gonna tell me that it’ll kill me?” Through his interaction with Meredith, the troubled musician is humbled and begins to look inward at who he is and what he’s become. There are several scenes between the pair that some may call “schlocky,” but they are so sweet and gentle that you can’t help but be touched.

LULLABY (Garrett Hedlund, Anne Archer, Richard Jenkins, Jessica Brown Findlay and Daniel Sunjata) (publicity still)

LULLABY (Garrett Hedlund, Anne Archer, Richard Jenkins, Jessica Brown Findlay and Daniel Sunjata) (publicity still)

Other key elements leading to Jonathan’s growing up involves an ex-girlfriend (another small but pivotal role, played by Amy Adams), his “I’m way too good for this” sister, Karen (Jessica Brown Findlay), who is struggling with her own demons. She files an injunction to stop her father from going through with his plans and comes unglued when he tells the family that he gave all of his money to charities and other causes. There’s a great scene where she comes clean to Jonathan, growing up a bit herself. The mother, Rachel, goes through several stages of grief, alternately being the strong woman holding the family together as she always has or completely falling apart, railing against the situation, her husband and God. One of Robert‘s last requests is to bring his family together for the traditional Passover Seder, performing the ritual early because he won’t be around at the Passover and because this is the first time in seven years that his whole family has been together. The scenes in the hospital’s chapel are powerful, heartwarming and… funny. You’ll understand when you watch. I should mention Jennifer Hudson as the in-your-face, tell-it-like-it-is nurse who first confronts Jonathan as he enters the hospital lobby, lighting a cigarette. She’s featured prominently in another heart-wrenching episode with Robert and Jonathan.

LULLABY (Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard) (publicity still)

LULLABY (Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard) (publicity still)

So, I know that I’m kinda skating around a lot of important stuff here, but I hate to be one of those guys that give away every detail of the movie. Ultimately, all I can do is recommend that you watch LULLABY with a box of tissues on hand. The subject matter and some strong language may be too intense for the young’uns, but it could open up a dialogue with junior high school aged kids (and older) who may be going through (or will eventually experience) similar situations. I told you at the top of this piece about my experiences. Obviously, they weren’t nearly as dramatic as those of the Lowenstein family, but they left there marks. LULLABY isn’t the type of movie that opens up old, painful memories; rather, it brought back some feelings that are really just under the surface: warm, happy memories of the people I love. And… okay… some sad ones, too. I honestly don’t believe that there’s a day that goes by that I don’t think about picking up the phone and calling my Dad or my sister or my brother. If you’ve lost someone close, you know what I mean. One of the most jarring aspects of LULLABY is Richard Jenkin’s make-up. As Robert becomes weaker and nears the end, there are moments when I could see my father’s face, sallow and small (he was always so much bigger than life to me), but with a peace that came from the knowledge that his pain and suffering was at an end and he was going home. That alone was worth the price of admission.


SAVING GRACE B JONES

(NEW FILMS INTERNATIONAL/ARC ENTERTAINMENT (115 minutes/Rated R), 2014; Original Theatrical Release, 2011)

Saving Grace B Jones_2D

The instant I saw the title, I knew that SAVING GRACE B JONES was going to tug at the heart strings. It does. The first thing that usually comes to a guy’s mind when he sees those words is: “Chick Flick.” However, I gotta tell you, that definitely is not the case with this movie. Actress Connie Stevens (HAWAIIAN EYE and a butt-load of TV and movie appearances) acts as director, executive producer, co-writer and narrator on what turns out to be a thrilling – and, yes, heartbreaking – tale of a perfect Central Missouri family driven to the brink of desperation by a confluence of events that they have no control over. Without giving away too much, here’s the plot of the “inspired by a true story” film:

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Tatum O'Neal (publicity still)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Tatum O’Neal (publicity still)

Set in 1951, Rylee Fansler portrays 10 year old Carrie (Stevens narrates as the adult Carrie). Already traumatized by the death of her mother, she becomes even more withdrawn and noncommunicable after witnessing a brutal stabbing. Her father makes the decision to send her to a small rural town called Boonville to spend the summer with an old Army buddy and his family. As Carrie settles in with Landy and Bea Bretthorst (Michael Biehn and Penelope Ann Miller) and their free-spirited daughter, Lucy (Evie Louise Thompson), she seems to be putting the gruesome memory behind her. She and Lucy even tag along when Landy travels to Oklahoma to bring his sister, Grace (Tatum O’Neal), home to live with the family. Grace had suffered horrible injuries when she was hit by a truck on her wedding day in 1935. The grueling recovery process drove Grace over the edge and she had spent the past sixteen years in a mental institution or, as they were commonly called then, an insane asylum. An underlying concern, hinted at throughout the movie, is a seemingly Biblical rain that constantly threatens the town, close to the Missouri River.

There are also hints of the abuse that Grace has had to withstand as a patient in the institution… all in the name of healing. Piper Laurie appears, in a delightfully wicked turn, as the asylum’s director, Marta Shrank. She is of the opinion that anyone ever admitted to such a place can never be released, as they are a threat to themselves and those around them (a sentiment, by the way, shared by most of Boonville, including the pious Reverend Potter): “… the best doctors and judges we have said that people who come here will never be right again. Maybe the doctors are smarter than you and me.” She isn’t very fond of her charges or of the two children that have accompanied Landy Bretthorst to bring Grace home and, with one of the best lines in the movie, she declares: “Tommy, it’s been so many years since I’ve seen children. They’re almost like little people, aren’t they?”

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Evie Louise Thompson and Rylee Fanser (publicity still)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Evie Louise Thompson and Rylee Fansler (publicity still)

Grace’s homecoming isn’t the smooth transition that Landy envisioned. Things are complicated by the fact that her groom lives across the street from the Bretthorsts with his pregnant wife. The rains continue to fall intermittently adding to the feeling of isolation, as Landy is constantly called away to help with sandbagging at outlying areas. However, both Lucy and Carrie have found a kindred spirit, as they grow close to the troubled woman. In one particularly poignant scene, Grace and Lucy are sitting on the roof of their porch (apparently, a sanctuary for both). Grace opens up a bit about her life, saying, “I wonder if anyone will ever know why I existed? I am crazy, you know.” She tells her niece about some of the things she did in her youth, concluding with the insightful line, “It’s funny… the hard thing about being crazy is, you don’t get to do crazy things anymore.” This tender moment, of a completely lucid Grace interacting with one of the few people in her life that doesn’t judge her, is – literally – the calm before the storm. She’s still fighting her demons but, the one person who may be able to help her is too busy to see how much she needs him. Everything comes crashing down for Grace and the family after a tragic accident that…

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Connie Stevens, Evie Louise Thompson, Rylee Fansler and Tatum O'Neal (publicity photo)

SAVING GRACE B JONES: Connie Stevens, Evie Louise Thompson, Rylee Fansler and Tatum O’Neal (publicity photo)

But, that would be telling! From this point forward, the narrative takes on a considerably darker tone. Relating the events of the last half of the film would ruin an excellent movie if you haven’t seen it. So, just let me add these few thoughts: The acting throughout is top notch and – I could make some crack about her family and upbringing here – Tatum O’Neal displays, for the first time in a long while, the skills that made her the youngest person to ever win an Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress for 1973’s PAPER MOON). Penelope Ann Miller, as the harried sister-in-law, also delivers a solid, low-key (for the most part) performance. SAVING GRACE B JONES skillfully addresses the stigma that the mentally ill continue to face today, with a forthright depiction of the patient, as well as the problems and decisions faced by the family that loves them, while still managing to incorporate an exciting secondary story. Guys, don’t be afraid of this flick; it will actually hold your attention to the end. You may want to have a box of tissues handy, though.