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The Week Ahead

`Grace,' a twinkle in his eye for 20 years

October 09, 2006|Susan King

Director Rick Rosenthal admits his latest feature, "Nearing Grace," is hard to categorize. It's a coming-of-age comedy set in the 1970s. It's also a drama, an R-rated romance and a social history of the decade.

"This movie mirrors my career," Rosenthal says. "People sort of got to know me through a movie called 'Bad Boys' with Sean Penn. After that, instead of becoming the next Walter Hill, I went to Europe and did a comedy called 'American Dreamer' with JoBeth Williams and Tom Conti. People were saying, 'Who is this guy? This can't be the same director who did 'Bad Boys.' "

"Nearing Grace," which opens Friday, revolves around a family -- teenager Henry (Gregory Smith), his older brother, Blair (David Moscow), and their father, Shep (David Morse) -- trying to adjust to the death of the unit's vibrant wife and mother.

Outwardly, Henry seems to be coping well enough with the loss, but inwardly he's a mess. And his life becomes even more traumatic when he finds himself irresistibly drawn to Grace (Jordana Brewster), one of the school's wildest and most popular students.

Rosenthal became involved with "Nearing Grace" nearly 20 years ago. "A producer gave me the book [by Scott Sommer] and the screenplay," he recalls. "Eventually, it turned out he didn't own the script and no one owned [the rights] to the book. Eventually, I optioned the book."

The project was almost set to film a few times, but when the deals fell through, Rosenthal went on to other projects.

"A couple of years ago, I woke up and thought, ' "Nearing Grace" -- I love that project.' I went into my office to track down the rights."

Rosenthal says he has felt real kinship to Henry's dilemma because he had a woman like Grace in his life for seven years.

"Almost every guy I have talked to has been attracted to a woman he knows empirically is bad for him, but the chemistry is so strong that they end up throwing caution to the wind."


-- Susan King

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