In Grace, Craig Wright‘s exploration of faith and folly in Florida, a quartet of characters combust due to the way they deal with crises based on their varying degrees of belief.
A smooth-talking Christian named Steve (Paul Rudd) is excitedly planning a chain of gospel hotels, though his wife Sara (Kate Arrington) would rather turn their own house into a home, as she prays for the baby–and fulfillment–she senses will never come.
Their neighbor, Sam (Michael Shannon) proves to be a lightning rod for their relationship.
He was badly disfigured in the car accident that claimed the life of his fiance, a horror he feels enormous guilt about as he bristles at a world without a God.
While Steve desperately tries to get Sam to invest in the hotel chain, Sara sees a tortured soul who needs comfort and confidence.
When Steve’s investor doesn’t materialize (shades of Rebecca The Musical, lol), we start to see more clearly how we got to the opening scene, which is basically the final scene acted in reverse.
Add to the mix a plain talking German-born exterminator (Ed Asner), who has his own burden of guilt to bear, but who dabbles in no-b.s. statements like “There’s no Jesus. There’s no God. Just mind your own business and everything will work out.”
You must believe. Me, that is.
Rudd and Asner are terrific, catching their characters’ light, dark, and manipulative sides, even if they’re at opposite ends of the “Jesus freak” spectrum.
Shannon is great in a scene where he frustratedly tries to get computer help on the phone–he seems to be the heir apparent to Christopher Walken-style quirky angst.
But his big matchup with Arrington is dullsville and leads to a Hallmarky conclusion, as does Asner’s sad tale (at least until that initial scene is re-enacted, this time in actual time).
The message seems to be that whether or not God exists, it’s only people that can save each other and maybe even themselves.
There’s imagination at work here and to get dark comedy out of material this bleak is an achievement, but because of its flaws and limitations, I didn’t find Grace to be amazing.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 4, 2012