Cinema Signal:

Romantic Comedy:
Boy Meets Girl Meets Genre
by Tamar Jeffers Mcdonald
A new Paperback available at Amazon)
. "Gray Matters"

What's matters here is writer-director Sue Kramer's unrealizable determination to be original with a romantic comedy two-fer. The two items involved aren't a double romance or wedding or anything like that. It's two sexual orientations. Which may not seem to be all that unusual, except that it involves two siblings, as in brother and sister, and no incest.

So here we have one Manhattan household occupied by thirtiesh Gray and Sam (Heather Graham -"Boogie Nights" and Tom Cavanagh- "Scrubs"). They dance together for folks and friends in a studio loft like they were auditioning for "Rent." They have the same set of likes in classic movies, jogging, no dog, and retardation in social attachments. So far, not so good.

Anyone outside observer would be drawn to the same assumption, that this is a fairly perfect marriage. Only it's not, and Kramer is pretty much writing herself into a corner that's not exactly painted with plausibility.

Neither of them are doing too poorly in the career department. Sam is a surgical intern and Gray's a creative designer in a big advertising firm. Gray is also not doing too well in selling pretty client Julia Bartlett (Rachel Shelley - "L Word") on her concepts and things around the office feel a bit shaky.

In any event, feeling the pressure on them both to find a mate, they're out jogging one day in a dog park with a borrowed mutt and spot Charlie (Bridget Moynahan), a tall, thin brunette bombshell attending to her dog, which turns out to be borrowed, as well. Gray scouts Charlie for her brother and, before you know it, they're both in love.

But it's Sam who gets to take Charlie out and wouldn't you know the sex-starved surgeon would propose on his first date... and that Charlie would accept? If you think that's going a little far down the literary scales of romantic impulse, wait'll you see what happens between Gray and Charlie the night before the Vegas wedding. Without spoiling this less than Shakespearean farce, let me say that Gray finds out she likes girls and spends the rest of the movie trying to prove it to herself.

Her therapist Dr. Sydney (Sissy Spacek) (so many male or nondescript names for the femme characters -- a clue to something, don't you think?) is a help, but not too much as she weaves her antic way through the scenario. Work gal-pal Carry (Molly Shannon) serves as Gray's sounding board and enabler with as much taste and comedic stretch marks as you see on the "Saturday Night Live" skits she appears in. Trying to mine this resource amounts to a distinct overestimation.

What I saw throughout this loony excuse for a romantic comedy (my third behind "Music and Lyrics" and "Starter For 10" (may I say that I hope that's my quota for the year) is a writer resorting to more contrivances than a down home handyman, which was evident in the very first scene, that dance loft. The dancing pair cover most of the floor for several minutes but, strangely and awkwardly, one side of the room isn't seen. Then, at the conclusion of the dance we see the missing side and lo! it's full of appreciative onlookers, a magic trick not for any aesthetic reason but to avoid integrating them for the many days it likely took to work on the intricate routine.

This might read like a minor carp and not worth remarking on, but it's of a piece with the creative shenanigans to keep a false premise alive.

Thank goodness there was some superb good judgement in casting. Heather Graham, with her kooky sexiness, could keep me glued in place by reading the phone book. Moynihan, the beauty who covered the distaff side so well in "I, Robot" is even more enthralling and intelligently captivating here where she's closer to front and center. You can smell the sweetness of movie stardom all over this fetching statue of loveliness. These two might not have made the premise work, exactly, but they made the time going along with an unconvincing attempt at originality worth something.

Hmmm... maybe I enjoyed it more than I realized.

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