In the movie, a middle-aged English widow (Brenda Blethyn) is left with a stack of debts after her philandering dope of a husband commits suicide. Her Scottish gardener (Craig Ferguson of the irksome Drew Carey Show) needs help growing hemp and Blethyn just happens to have a green thumb. With his insistence, they soon grow tons of weed in her huge greenhouse, turning it into a stoner's wet dream.
Writers Mark Crowdy and Craig Ferguson (who also produced) don't flesh out this scenario, though. Blethyn does a fine job in the title role and makes the film palatable. With her sing-songy delivery and matronly looks, there is a good foundation for laughs. The scene of her dressed like Superfly's aunt when she looks for London drug buyers is a hoot.
But Blethyn, a two-time Academy Award-nominated actress, never gets a chance to interpret or broaden the role. The film opts to throw in a bunch of drowsy, sitcomish subplots that dwarf development on all fronts. Ferguson's fisher girlfriend is pregnant, but can't tell him the happy news. Director Nigel Cole should feel proud. That device has now officially been used more times than penicillin. Blethyn meets, befriends and uses her husband's mistress to get connected with a drug dealer. The whole bizarre chain of events doesn't get played for laughs--a botched comic opportunity.
Ultimately, this all leads to Blethyn and Ferguson being chased by drug dealing thugs and a corporate boss who wants his debt paid. Yes, by the end it's officially become the next Love Bug movie--Herbie Gets High.
The worst thing about Saving Grace is that the drug aspect isn't used with any flair, further highlighting the film's bland, uncreative core. Every reefer joke involves button-down people acting goofy--whether it be Blethyn laughing uncontrollably when taking a hit of her own stash, or a garden party getting funky when she burns her considerable cash crop.
Come on. Don't Ferguson and Crowdy know the best drug jokes come from the fried responses, but not people acting like Woodstock bozos? Remember Jack Nicholson talking about aliens in Easy Rider? Or Rory Cochran describing Martha and George Washington as America's hemp harvesting pioneers in Dazed and Confused?
Those were funny, unforgettable scenes. Saving Grace is so bent on thinking that just getting high is a hoot, that Blethyn's and Ferguson's scheme comes across as an opportunity to only showcase this stupid behavior. That's not good.
The bottom line is that Saving Grace doesn't bother to try. It goes for the easiest way out, the least amount of effort. It tries to float solely on the notion of a spinster growing drugs, buoyed by recycled subplots.
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Friday 1st September 2000
Box Office USA: $11.5M
Distributed by: Fine Line Features
Production compaines: Homerun Productions, Portman Entertainment Group, Rich Pickings, Sky Pictures, Wave Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 2 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Fresh: 56 Rotten: 33
IMDB: 6.9 / 10
Director: Nigel Cole
Producer: Mark Crowdy
Starring: Brenda Blethyn as Grace Trevethyn, Craig Ferguson as Matthew Steward, Martin Clunes as Dr. Martin Bamford, Tchéky Karyo as Jacques Chevalier, Jamie Foreman as China MacFarlane, Bill Bailey as Vince, Valerie Edmond as Nicky, Tristan Sturrock as Harvey, Leslie Phillips as Vicar Gerald Perey, Denise Coffey as Mrs. Hopkins, Paul Brooke as Charlie, Ken Campbell as Sgt. Alfred Masely, John Fortune as Melvyn, Philip Wright as Nigel Pimpton, Darren Southworth as Terry, Magnus Lindgren as Tony, Dean Lennox Kelly as Bob, Johnny Bamford as Removal Boss, Bill Hallet as Postman, Alison Dillon as Kelly, Bill Weston as John Trevethyn, Phyllida Law as Margaret Sutton, Clive Merrison as Quentin Rhodes
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