A scene from 'Saving Grace'
Courtesy Photo
**1/2 stars 93 minutes | Rated: R
Opened: Friday, August 4, 2000
Directed by Nigel Cole

Starring Brenda Blethyn, Craig Ferguson, Martin Clunes, Tchéky Karyo, Phyllida Law, Jamie Forman, Bill Bailey, Valerie Edmond, Tristan Sturrock, Clive Merrison, Leslie Phillips & Diana Quick


A good rental full of hearty laughs that should translate well - if not quite as heartily - to the small screen. Worth seeing just for the scene in which Brenda Blethyn and Craig Ferguson getting stoned.

   VIDEO RELEASE: 12.19.2000


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Blethyn is comedic perfection as a widow dodging debt by using her green thumb to enter the drug trade

By Rob Blackwelder

Grace (Brenda Blethyn) is a middle-aged English housewife whose husband has jumped out of a plane without a parachute, leaving her with a messy legacy of massive debt. Her beloved but modest estate in the friendly little hamlet she calls home is about to be foreclosed, and she just doesn't know how she's going to sustain herself.

She hocks her wedding ring and lets repo men take her riding lawn mower, but she's fast running out of options. That is, until her pot-head gardener Michael (Craig Ferguson) suggests they teach themselves a little DIY hydroponics and transplant his marijuana plants -- currently hidden under a tree at a local vicarage -- into her big, empty greenhouse where they can grow faster and become a source of income.

A choice little comedy with an enthusiastic spirit, "Saving Grace" gets a lot of mileage out of the paradoxical image of an adorable granny type lending her green thumb to the cannabis trade. And Blethyn ("Little Voice," "Secrets & Lies") couldn't be more ideal in the role, playing it at once na•ve and determined. "I'm becoming a drugs dealer!" she giggles effervescently.

Co-written by Ferguson ("The Big Tease," "The Drew Carey Show"), who is just as appealing as Blethyn in his role as a good-hearted bud hound, the film strikes a dexterous balance between Grace's grief (besides the bills she has her late husband's mistress to contend with), emotional conflict (Michael's pregnant girlfriend is none too thrilled about his new endeavor) and the movie's ample outright laughs.

The funniest bits all stem from little old ladies getting stoned. A pair of Grace's sewing circle pals mistake the pot for a new kind of tea, and Grace herself decides to try her product, resulting in an afternoon of laughing at the littlest things.

"What's so funny?" Michael asks her while they get wasted on the beach. "You're Scottish!" she squeals, doubling over in guffaws.

But there's plenty of other sources of humor, since the whole town eventually participates in the cover-up of Grace's greenhouse.

The last act trades on a fish-out-of-water sequence in which Grace goes to London trying to find a dealer to buy their huge haul of hemp. Trying to fit in, she dresses like a pimp in Vivian Westwood, leading Michael to comment, "I'm the hip one. You're a bit more hip replacement."

Soon she's on the run from a pair of thugs in addition to being haunted by mortgage bankers, insurance adjusters and the police.

In its contrived, pandering, cop-out finale, "Saving Grace" kind of kicks the legs out from underneath all the fun -- which is why I've given the picture only two and a half stars. But the crappy ending isn't enough to ruin what is otherwise a real gas of a movie.

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