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Movie Review

Blethyn's Gentle Touch Nurtures 'Saving Grace'

August 04, 2000|JAN STUART | FOR THE TIMES

For those who have not partaken of marijuana and would never consider it, the makers of "Saving Grace" are here to tell you what it's all about.

It makes you giggle.

That's the dark, dirty secret. You giggle. You giggle again. You put on novelty store spectacles with big eyeballs that pop out on springs and you giggle some more. And then you eat a case of cornflakes.

"Saving Grace," otherwise known as "Brenda Blethyn Gets the Munchies," is about as benign a marijuana comedy as one could imagine. Set in the sort of pristine Cornish village where one might expect to find Miss Marple poking the hedges for clues, it features the twice-Oscar-nominated Blethyn ("Secrets & Lies" and "Little Voice") as a middle-class widow who turns to growing marijuana crops in her greenhouse to pay off the staggering debts left by her husband.

That's the tall and the short of it. What lends this one-joke comedy a measure of interest are the ways in which writers Craig Ferguson (who co-stars as Blethyn's faithful gardener) and Mark Crowdy avoid the adorable-stoned-Mrs.-Miniver trap for Blethyn (although there are a couple of those dithering about on the sidelines). Instead of the blowzy or weepy gals who have made her famous, Blethyn gives us here a woman of dignity and comeliness who is compelled by necessity toward nefarious means.

Sporting the sort of pragmatic but fashionable ensemble of plaid blouse and leather vest one would expect to find in a Marks and Spencer catalog, her Grace Trevethan accords her illegal green crops the same loving attention as her orchids. The locals set up lawn chairs to watch the light show emanating from her greenhouse each night, and everyone keeps mum about her activities. This is a village where folks look out for their own, and the upstanding town doctor (Martin Clunes) is the biggest stoner for miles around.

The complications don't amount to a hill of buds. What saves "Saving Grace" from its ineffectual tendencies is Blethyn, dressing up as a big white day lily to peddle her crops on the streets of London or facing down a dangerous French dealer (Tcheky Karyo) in an absurd subterranean den (the interiors are great throughout). Blethyn is the model of a middle-aged movie star: relaxed, intelligent, quietly handsome, full of grace.

* MPAA rating: R, for drug content and language. Times guidelines: The drug use is frequent, but it's mostly very innocent and upbeat.

'Saving Grace'

Brenda Blethyn: Grace

Craig Ferguson: Matthew

Martin Clunes: Dr. Bamford

Tcheky Karyo: Jacques

A Portman Entertainment presentation, in association with Sky Pictures and Wave Pictures, of a Home Run production, released by Fine Line Features. Director Nigel Cole. Producers Mark Crowdy. Executive producers Cat Villiers, Xavier Marchand. Screenplay by Craig Ferguson, Mark Crowdy. Story Crowdy. Cinematographer John DeBorman. Editor Alan Strachan. Costume designer Annie Symons. Music Mark Russell. Production designer Eve Stewart. Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes.

At select theaters.

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