" It’s a question of whether we want to hold onto those values that made this place great. "
— J.T. Walsh, Pleasantville

MRQE Top Critic

Wild Hogs

The movie manages to stay on course but the DVD's extra features are road kill —Matt Anderson (DVD review...)

Three middle-aged guys drag their Wild Hogs across country

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My mother is a big fan of British comedy. BBC sitcoms, movies, you name it, she eats it up. Even if the humor sometimes tests the boundaries of propriety, as long as there’s no blood, she laughs. So even though most of the jokes in Saving Grace are about marijuana, I think mom will love it.

Green Thumbs

Grace and Matthew laugh it up

Grace Trevethyn (Brenda Blethyn) has been an upper-middle class housewife all her life. She lives in a big house in Cornwall with her husband and no children. Her husband has just died, leaving her only his debts.

Matthew (Craig Ferguson, who also wrote and produced) has been her loyal gardener for quite some time, and his paychecks have begun to bounce. Grace has to let him go. Although Matthew is the gardener, Grace has the green thumb, so before he leaves he asks her to take a look at certain plants — call them hemp — he’s been trying to grow on the church grounds. They’re stunted and wilting and in need of some care.

Grace and Matthew rescue one of the little fellas, nursing it back to health with light, mist, and fertilizer. Grace beams with pride and fulfillment at saving Matthew’s plant. And although Grace is naive about drugs, she understands she could actually earn money for her debts by tending these plants.

What the Doctor Ordered

Once you see the situation, the jokes become extremely predictable. They all have to do with an old, prim lady involved in a youthful, hip drug culture. (Matthew tells Grace at one point, “I’m hip. You’re more hip replacement.”) But even if they’re predictable, the jokes are funny. They may not all work, but the percentage is pretty high.

More important, the humor is sympathetic and good-hearted. For Grace, who has lost everything, immersion in a hobby and a dose of youthful experimentation are just what the doctor ordered.

Growing Down

Like last year’s American Beauty, Saving Grace is partly about reconnecting with a lost youth. (In both films, smoking pot lets the protagonist loosen up). But instead of a selfish, cynical view, Saving Grace takes a lighthearted, whimsical approach.

Grace’s return to youth is central, but Matthew’s story stands in thoughtful contrast. Matthew has been a child for a long time and is ready for something more mature. In fact, his girlfriend becomes pregnant, which changes her whole perspective on Matthew’s illegal venture. Whatever she thinks of drug laws, she can’t afford to have Matthew in jail. So as Grace grows down, Matthew grows up.

Scenery and Characters

Two reasons my mom loves British comedy are quirky characters and beautiful scenery. Saving Grace has both.

The film was shot in Cornwall, a lush, green, hilly region of England. Within this region is a small, quaint fishing village where Grace and Matthew live. Although some of the movie takes place indoors, there are enough scenes of rolling hillsides and cobbled streets to satisfy expatriates-at-heart.

Inhabiting this landscape are an abundance of colorful minor characters. The town’s young doctor is social and outgoing, and he happens to be Matthew’s best customer. The kind, elderly police officer is apparently ignorant of Grace’s pot factory, because he’s always on lookout for salmon poachers. Then there are the elderly ladies in Grace’s flower club who run the general store, and who don’t recognize what’s growing in Grace’s greenhouse.

It would be easy to pan Saving Grace as a collection of easy jokes about not acting one’s age. But Ferguson and Blethyn worked hard to add some substance to the plot and characters, even while letting the surface seem shallow and easy.

In any case, I enjoyed it. Mom, go see it.