Combustible Celluloid
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With: Illeana Douglas, Matt Dillon, Eric Stoltz, John Turturro, Patsy Kensit, Bruce Davison, Jennifer Leigh Warren, Bridget Fonda, Chris Isaak, David Clennon, Lucinda Jenney, Christina Pickles, Lynne Adams, Richard Schiff
Written by: Allison Anders
Directed by: Allison Anders
MPAA Rating: R for language, and for some sexuality and drug content
Running Time: 116
Date: 09/08/1996

Grace of My Heart (1996)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

God Gave Her Strength

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

The fourth feature film by indie director Allison Anders (Gas Food Lodging, Mi Vida Loca), Grace of My Heart is a sprawling, heartrending, music-driven soap opera, with a rare and gorgeous leading performance by the underrated Illeana Douglas. She plays Edna Buxton, who dreams of becoming a singer, but who runs into the chauvinism of the late 1950s and early 1960s. With the new showbiz name "Denise Waverly," she winds up working at the Brill Building as a songwriter, making hits for others. A series of men drift in and out of her life, and pregnancies happen. The movie soars during some of its song performances, like the closeted lesbian Kelly Porter (Bridget Fonda) singing "My Secret Love" or Denise herself finding her place in the world singing the incredible "God Give Me Strength." The movie takes its time, finding space between the images for a deep, bittersweet feeling. Matt Dillon plays a Brian Wilson-like singer-songwriter (a Theremin is used!). John Turturro plays Denise's fast-talking boss, Eric Stoltz is a slimy songwriter, and Bruce Davison is a DJ. Martin Scorsese, who was dating Douglas at the time, executive produced, and his regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker helped out as well. Kino Lorber's 2020 Blu-ray release comes with a commentary track by Anders, a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, and trailers for this and other titles.

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