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Gray Matters.

In lieu of personalities, the characters in the new film Gray Matters have lists. Lists of their likes and dislikes, their favorite films and foods, list upon list proffered so often that they seem to be filling out a questionnaire instead of making actual conversation. In particular, Heather Graham's character, Gray, is looking for "someone who doesn't think Ginger Rogers is one of the Spice Girls, someone who wouldn't consider going to Florida 'traveling,' someone who's not afraid to try Ethiopian food." What Gray fails to mention, perhaps because she doesn't yet realize it, is that this someone ought to be a woman--preferably her brother's new wife (Bridget Moynahan), whose comely looks and tendency to watch TV while wearing an evening gown make her just the thing to uncork Gray's repressed sexuality. Throw in some TV actors (Molly Shannon and Ed star Tom Cavanagh) as well as some gay faves (Alan Cumming and The L Word's Rachel Shelley) and you've got a new breed of gay romantic comedy: one where every lesbian is lipstick and sexuality is as inoffensive as the wacky coworker struggling with Weight Watchers.

Despite the gay twist and the semistale cultural references (Spice Girls? Really?), writer-director Sue Kramer obviously hopes to pattern her film after the classic screwball comedies from the '40s: The banter is snappy and fast, the characters bond over Till the Clouds Roll By, and there are even two sustained ballroom dance sequences. Unfortunately, the classic movie fetish isn't exactly novel in this genre--who can forget Rosie O'Donnell admonishing the Cary Grant-obsessed Meg Ryan in Sleepless in Seattle with "You want to be in love in a movie"? As for the banter, it's less Bringing Up Baby and more Gilmore Girls--not a bad thing per se, but one that brings to mind a Graham more adept at verbal curlicues than this one. I've got to say that Rollergirl is actually improving as a comic actress. Her hem and haws and squeaks can't help but be endearing, but she appears so unconvinced by the majority of her lines that the trickier bits (like the blithe acknowledgment of her late-in-life sexuality) come off as implausible.

And oh, what a waste of Sissy Spacek, who appears in two scenes as Graham's therapist, Dr. Sydney. Doc Syd is given to unconventional methods of therapy--like conducting sessions while bowling or rock climbing. It is as if she came straight out of the wacky sitcom the film might originally been conceived as. Graham is at home in these scenes with her klieg-light wholesomeness and Sex and the City-derived delivery, but Spacek looks embarrassed to be there, almost seeming to be hiding behind her Amazonian costar. To watch Spacek whisper her lines, hunch over, and clumsily heave a bowling ball is to crawl inside yourself with mortification.

Perhaps she didn't realize what she was getting into--for all its trappings, Gray Matters is conventional to the max. Much like the actors in its dance sequences, the film hits all the right steps, yet still can't help but feel like it's simply going through the motions.
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Title Annotation:CINEPHILE
Author:Buchanan, Kyle
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Date:Feb 27, 2007
Previous Article:Toys.
Next Article:Rock Bottom.

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