Grace Of My Heart

new releases (15)115mins *‘ktir

Loosely inspired by the life of Carole King, Grace Of My Heart is no standard biopic. Instead, writer-director Allison Anders has fashioned a film that uses a familiar enough structure would~be singer-songwriter struggles in a male- dominated industry and through a string of testing relationships to make a deeper, more heartfelt statement about a woman’s determination to find her own v0ice.

The film begins in the late 505, when shy, upper-class girl Edna Buxton (llleana Douglas) breaks into the music business in New York. Immediately, her identity is taken from her when manager Joel Millner (John Turturro) rechristens her ’Denise Waverly’ and hires her to churn out hits for male vocal groups (think how Anders and other female filmmakers must feel in the laddish indie film scene filled with Tarantino clones).

Over the next few years, as the 605 takes hold and the industry changes, Denise IS continually denied her dream of singing her own material. Further complications arise due to the men in her life, notany her two husbands, unfaithful Howard (Eric Stoltz) and troubled Jay (Matt Dillon).

Douglas carries the film in a way that wasn't predictable from her previous

Portrait Of A Lady (12) 144 mins ***

Jane Campion’s follow-up to The Piano is a dark and difficult film, adapted from Henry James's novel The Portrait Of A Lady. Unsurprisingly, considering Campion's reputation as a demanding and uncompromising director, this is no easy-to-digest costume version of an old classic. Rather, the film attempts to stay true to the subtle psychological observation that motors James's story of a spirited young woman who is almost destroyed by a disastrous marriage. As a result, the emphasis is less on action and plotting than on mood and delicately observed inflexions of personality.

At over two hours, many viewers will find Portrait Of A Lady somewhat tiring. It is always beautiful to look at and full of fine performances, but its emotional remoteness means it doesn’t have the impact of The Piano.

One of the most publicised ‘risks' Campion took was the casting of Nicole Kidman in the lead role the actress hadn't yet won the acclaim that To Die For was to bring her. This decision, at any rate, is one which pays off. Kidman is excellent as Isabel Archer at once

Osmond, played by John Malkovich.

aristocratic suitor (Richard E. Grant), it is because she desires to explore what life has to offer, and this ambition earns her the love of her consumptive cousin (Martin Donovan in a truly moving performance) and a fortune. But Isabel has a dark side which draws her towards the dangerous Madame Merle (Barbara Hershey, again excellent) and Merle's cold-hearted ex-lover Gilbert

A quite bloodless interpretation of Osmond's relationship with Isabel doesn't do much to lift the film. It is difficult for a modern audience to grasp why Isabel

(independent in means and mind) cannot leave the loveless, passionless marriage that makes her life a misery. And, moreover, while the other characters are ambiguous, Malkovich's Osmond is inexplicable. What does he feel for Isabel? Why is he the way he is? Campion is clearly interested in exploring the way in which a spirited woman can be mentally and sexually

controlled, but Osmond doesn't seem worth it, and his

entrapment of Isabel is either unconvincing or absolutely chilling. (Hannah Fries) I Glasgow Odeon Quay and Edinburgh UC/ from Fri 28 Feb.

Take me to your leader: Jack Nicholson on the wrong end of a ray-gun in Mars Attacks!

Mars Attacks! (12)105 mins tit

Tim Burton’s follow-up to Ed Wood is another celebration of the gloriously tacky world of SOs B-movies. This time his inspiration is an even quirkier slice of low culture: a series of luridly violent trading cards issued by the Topps Chewing Gum Company in 1962 and then promptly withdrawn following howls of outrage from parents who

24 ‘I'IIEIJST Zl Feb—6 Mar 1997

didn't share their offspring's delight in the savage antics of Martian invaders. Burton’s Martians are bug-eyed, little green men with bulging brains, who arrive on Earth in a fleet of flying saucers. Claiming to come in peace, they promptly zap everything in sight with their toy-like ray-guns and display the gleeful anarchy of alien(ated) teens as they smash up the adult world. Burton's other acknowledged influence are the star-studded disaster

movies of the 70s that had audiences trying to second-guess which actors would stay in one piece until the final credits. Mars Attacks! is even more profligate with its stars than those old Irwin Allen epics like The Towering Inferno.

The film boasts Jack Nicholson in two roles: the US President and a crass Las Vegas hotel mogul. It has Glenn Close as a glacial First Lady, Annette Bening as an alcoholic ex-stripper turned New Age guru, and Danny DeVito as a loutish Vegas gambler. Sarah Jessica Parker, Michael J. Fox, Pierce Brosnan and former blaxploitation stars Jim Brown and Pam Grier also appear, and there’s even a cameo by Tom Jones.

Mars Attacks! is great fun and a welcome corrective to the gung-ho excesses of Independence Day. But there is something rather pointless in the lavishness with which this film recreates the cheesy, low-tech look of the old B-movies with a $75 million budget and state-of-the-art special effects. In the end, the film is just too knowing for its own good. A kitsch sensibility will take you only so far, and Mars Attacks! surely misses the innocence that has animated Burton's best work. (Jason Best)

I General release from Fri 28 Feb.

proud, naive, sensitive and " roles, which include To Die For and determined. Loveless bond: Nicole Kidman and John Malkovich in Portrait Of A Lady Cape Fear. She may not look like your When Isabel turns down an typical Hollywood leading lady, but she

glows With screen personality. Denise is a dream role, encompassing a formative decade in one woman’s life, and Douglas has the range and ironic touch to run the full gamut of love, sadness, triumph, and endless struggle for dignity.

Grace Of My Heart is also remarkable for its use of period setting, but the costume and hairster changes aren't JUSI backdrops. Each new look reflects the next stage in Denise’s life, often involvmg a new man. Not that this means she is trying, chameleon-like, to ingratiate herself with the world of her lovers; it’s more that she's experimenting with life, testing an outward show of inner developments. This is a film that has the scope of an old-fashioned Hollywood epic, but an independent’s sensibility and a truly personal heart. (Alan Morrison)

I Glasgow Showcase and Edinburgh UC/ from Fri 27 Feb.

ll” ‘1': a: i

Music makers: llleana Douglas and John Turturro in Grace Of My Heart