Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Gray Matters

GRAY MATTERS (Sue Kramer, 2006)

Gray (Heather Graham) and Sam (Thomas Cavanagh) are so close that the siblings are regularly mistaken for a couple. Roommates and dance partners, they're like two peas in a pod. It's a wonderful relationship, but finding romantic interests as compatible as each other proves to be a difficult task.

As with everything else, the brother and sister in GRAY MATTERS look for love together. Gray spots a woman in the park whom she thinks would be perfect for Sam and paves the way for an introduction. Charlie (Bridget Moynahan) hangs out with the two of them all day and stays out the rest of the night with Sam. The next morning Sam returns home and announces that he and Charlie are going to Las Vegas to get married. Of course Gray is invited to witness the happy union of their whirlwind romance.

Before the wedding Gray takes Charlie out for a night on the town that includes singing "I Will Survive" on stage with Gloria Gaynor. Back in their shared hotel room the liquored up women lock lips. The intimate moment causes Gray to freak out--is she trying to sabotage her brother's happiness?--while Charlie has no memory of it. As time goes along, Gray begins to wonder if her attraction to her sister-in-law means that she's a lesbian.

In this romantic comedy the actors deliver their limp one-liners at five hundred miles an hour, as if saying everything faster will make it funnier. (At least it likely shaves five to ten minutes off the running time.) The best that can be said of Graham is that she tries. Cavanagh tries out a weak Jerry Seinfeld shtick. As bad as GRAY MATTERS is, the last thing it needed was Molly Shannon. She dominates her scenes at work with Gray, largely because the actress is one of those people whose presence on screen is almost always irritating. The lone bright spot is Alan Cumming playing a sweet (and straight) cab driver with affection for Gray. His few scenes have more sincerity and feeling than the rest of the movie.

Decked out in its fondness for old Hollywood films and American songbook standards, GRAY MATTERS borrows the wallpaper from a Nancy Meyers movie to decorate its empty room. The director of SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE and THE HOLIDAY may indulge her love for golden oldies, but she also remembers to tell heartfelt stories. GRAY MATTERS fails to invest its characters with real human behavior. (Two future sisters-in-law who barely know one another hop into the tub together without blinking all the time, right?) It's impossible to believe Gray's sexual perplexity from the feeble evidence that she takes as proof that she may not be into guys. As a friend pointed out, Gray's understanding of being gay amounts to wearing hats as a fashion statement.

It doesn't help GRAY MATTERS that KISSING JESSICA STEIN covered similar territory with more humor and insight. This film seems to have been made under the misguided assumption that a Graham-Moynahan kissing scene was all that was needed to sell tickets. The problem is that crass moments like this are no longer controversy starters even on network TV. Make no mistake, their make-out session is nothing but a cheap ploy to make this forgettable film more marketable.

Grade: D-

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