Grace of My Heart

This fictitious mini-epic has many fine moments of comedy and drama — not to mention Illeana Douglas carrying her first (and thus far only) leading role sharply and confidently — though it does try to cram way too much into one movie. Basically the story is: What if Carole King married Brian Wilson, and then they turned into Courtney Love and Kurt Cobain? Douglas is warm and witty as Edna Buxton, who goes to New York in 1958 to be a singer just when female singers are on the way out and black quartets are the new thing. Music producer John Turturro hires her anyway, to write songs for pop groups under the name Denise Waverly. After a while she gets the chance to record her own stuff and falls in love with psycho-genius surfer boy Matt Dillon. Writer-director Allison Anders gets carried away and sets Edna up as a brave survivor of just about everything a male-dominated business can throw at a female artist. Many will prefer the lighter, peppier That Thing You Do (which, like this movie, underperformed in theaters). Still, Anders explores things hardly any other director does. She gives Edna the right to not always be a saint, as when she tells an admiring disk jockey (Bruce Davison) that she doesn’t want him as just a friend — “I have enough friends.” Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach collaborated on Edna’s song “God Give Me Strength.”

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