Hot on the patent-leather heels of That Thing You Do! comes another movie about making it in the music world. Allison Sanders' Grace Of My Heart zips through a decade of tootling from doo-wap to song-led '60s smoothness, doing a quick rock around the frock of fashion on the way. Mixing melody and melodrama, it chronicles the trials of singer/songwriter Denise Waverly, and is fair littered with jaunty musical numbers. In fact, with its tale of a Carole King figure who works in the Brill building, it's close to being a parody of a music biopic (think The Karen Carpenter Story). And with some songs co-written by Gallagherian guru Bacharach and Elvis ""Moi?"" Costello, its soundtrack is so "authentic" you'll have trouble getting it out of your head.
With any such film, the lead role is the key. As Denise, Illeana Douglas might not be your idea of feminine beauty (she's all skinny and googly-eyed, though sassily sexy with it), but her role fits her like a velvet evening glove - - and she gets the laughs. In comparison, the rest of the cast seems one-dimensional. Matt Dillon is in Neanderthal form as a druggie Brian Wilson figure, the gifted John Turturro is vaguely disappointing as a big-hearted businessman and Patsy Kensit... well, Patsy Kensit is in it. (In fact, there's a bit of a "media-mad Brit chick" thing going on in this film, Amanda De Cadenet - - remember her? - - making a brief appearance too.) While it's a little too ambly, Grace Of My Heart is a lot less silly than Anders' Goddess turn in Four Rooms. There are plenty of good (and gruesome) gynaecological gags - - something about diaphragms sticking to the ceiling - - and, although it never really involves you completely, this is a funny, touching film. In short, it's an easy-watcher: definitely for the Bacharach fans.