I was surprised to find that The
Grass Harp was actually released theatrically; it has the
undefinable but usually tell-tale stamp of "made-for-TV movie"
all over it. It's not terrible, and may have an additional appeal for
some viewers in that it is an adaptation of a Truman Capote novel,
but all in all The Grass Harp has a lightweight feel to it.
You may like it, but I doubt you'll remember it for long after the
end credits have rolled.
The Grass Harp is the story
of a boy named Colin Fenwick who is sent to live with his father's
cousins, the stern Verena (Sissy Spacek) and the gentle Dolly (Piper
Laurie). The actual story involves various adventures and emotional
moments that add up to a coming-of-age story for Colin and character
development for the various other figures involved in his life. It's
a character-centered piece with a period backdrop, and it certainly
boasts an all-star cast, with Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, and Roddy
McDowell having roles as well.
I'd say that the main flaw of The
Grass Harp is that it has "characters" rather than
characters: that all the actors in the film are clearly playing
roles, rather than bringing fictional people to life. All the
characters feel one-dimensional, with even their changes of heart or
character development coming across as scripted and predictable. Nor
is the overall effect improved by the bland, stilted voiceover that
occasionally narrates the protagonist's recollections. The period
setting looks good visually, but when it's combined with the rather
forced acting, it feels like a dress-up drama. Let's all get together
and make a 1930s movie! It'll be fun!
From what I've written so far, it
sounds like The Grass Harp is a lousy movie. That's not really
the case, though; it's just that it's a sufficiently bland movie that
it's easier to pick up on its faults than find anything that stands
out enough to praise. I'm also not a big fan of anything that can be
labeled "heartwarming," as I tend to be allergic to
excessive sentimentality. The Grass Harp at least doesn't
overdo it on that count, as it does present its story with sweetness
but not sappiness. I would say (and I mean this in a good way) that
if you enjoy things like the Little House on the Prairie
television series, you'll probably find The Grass Harp to be to your
The Grass Harp appears in its
original 1.85:1 aspect ratio, and is anamorphically enhanced. The
image quality is a notch above average, with good colors and a
generally pleasing appearance. There's some grain and edge
enhancement in the image, though, and it has a consistently rather
I think the best word to describe
the audio options for The Grass Harp is "overkill."
I'm a big fan of DTS sound, but it's wasted here; the
dialogue-centered track sounds uninvolving, and neither the DTS nor
the Dolby 5.1 surround tracks do much to help that. A Dolby 2.0
soundtrack is also included. There's nothing wrong with any of the
soundtracks; it's just that they don't have anything particularly
engaging about them. English and Spanish subtitles are included.
The only special features are a
theatrical trailer for the film and a trailer for other New Line
A fairly run-of-the-mill "coming
of age" story, The Grass Harp offers a list of well-known
actors, a script that's based on a Truman Capote novel, and not a
whole lot else. It's not badly done, though the rather forced
performances are the weakest note here, and is a passable piece of
fluff if you're interested in either the cast or the Capote novel.