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Gray Matters

Fox // PG-13 // June 19, 2007
List Price: $27.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted June 4, 2007 | E-mail the Author
There wasn't a gripe to be heard from me about the cast for Gray Matters. Heather Graham, Tom Cavanagh, and Bridget Moynahan highlight this ensemble, none of which give off enough bad mojo worth turning away from the film. In fact, that cluster of stars can, and have, mustered up a few laughs in previous roles. Well, save for Moynahan who instead grasps the gentle, smart girl roles across the board pretty well. And, based on the trailer, I thought Gray Matters held some mounting possibility for a lot of laughs intertwined in a promising, original comedy.

Well, I was wrong.

The Film:

First-time writer and director Sue Kramer seems to have her intentions in the right place, as this film can sink its hooks in with an enticing premise and the glimmering hope of a quirky coming-of-age yarn. Gray (Heather Graham) works at a brand management and marketing firm giving strong presentations on a regular basis. Once she wraps up at the office, she journeys home to run, dine, and shop with Sam (Tom Cavanagh). It's a close, competitive relationship involving bonding, sharing and ... sibling rivalry? After a mix-up at a dinner party that suggests the brother / sister combo might be getting too close for comfort, Gray and Sam decide to hunt down the perfect member of the opposite sex for one another.

In comes Charlie (Bridget Moynahan), a beautiful, dog-walking, vintage movie-loving newby to the city that catches both Sam and Gray in their trance during an deliberate stroll through the park. With some help from Gray, the two lovebirds Sam and Charlie spend a whirlwind night together and decide to trot, in head-over-heels enamored vigor, to Vegas for an impromptu wedding the following weekend. It's only after a girls' night out involving Nevada lounge singing and cocktail swigging before the wedding that Gray begins to see what entranced her about Charlie. Sitting on the bed, staring at each other with alcohol swimming through their bloodstreams, the two girls turn Gray's world upside down with a simple, impassioned locking of the lips.

Soaking in Gray Matters is a lot like taking a bite out of a cheeseburger and just getting a mouthful of bun and condiments. You're waiting, patiently, to taste something more as the surface flavors tantalize your tastebuds for the juicy, rich meat (or black bean / vegan flavor, take your pick). In the end, the prolonged bite leaves you unsatisfied, wanting there to be much more raw substance and vivacity in between the layers. It's a shame, because that meat could've been quite tasty with all the savory elements at play.

All we're working with on Gray Matters, however, is a decent idea, some talented stars, and a script that plows both of these possibilities well into the depths of oversweet, unbelievable daftness. Everything clicks together much too easily in this film, lending an air of disbelief that looms over Gray's journey of discovery. Gray Matters is the type of film that's either needs to keep the scenario as believable as possible with downplayed, rich humor, or go way far over the top with both dialog and story so that the two intermingle throughout the runtime. Instead, this full-scale chick flick is so easy and so fit-like-a-glove perfect that nothing seems real, even the dialogue. Most of our empathy is lost through such faultlessness, as is our ability to laugh at any of the rapid, rambling dialogue and quirky nonsense.

Floating in this unsubstantial current of comedic misfiring, Heather's Gray is swimming for her life here. Graham is trying to be our hero, adding some glimmers of quality to the narrative of the film through well-delivered lines. Cavanagh and Moynahan dive in to support Graham, adding speckles of humor with some choice one-liners (and a grand dance scene between Bridget and Heather). Plus, Alan Cumming pops out of nowhere to deliver a hint of charm as an Irish cabby, as does Sissy Spacek as Gray's therapist and Molly Shannon as one of Gray's co-workers. There's belief in this reviewer that a quality comedy lies underneath the rubble; but, with this weak, humor-lacking script, everyone is treading water.

Gray Matters does nothing more than calmly float and sway for an hour ands a half. It's kind of sweet, kind of touching, and only funny in very sparse waves. More importantly, this is a film that plays its game in a very safe, easy fashion. Gray Matters isn't so much of a bad movie as it is a stale, static one that could've been much, much more if it grasped some aggressiveness.

The DVD:

The Video:

Though this is a screener from Fox, this anamorphic transfer actually looked pretty darn good. Sharpness, details, and colors all looked quite nice. Gray Matters seems to have somewhat of an amber, hazy look throughout the runtime. It's pleasant without being dramatically stunning. In short, the crispness and quality aren't anything to drop the jaw over, but you'll be pleased.

The Audio:

The Dolby 5.1 track honestly feels like a lightly swollen stereo track. Back channels are practically useless in this audio presentation. With that said, the voice levels are moderately clean and audible. If any of the scenes displayed music regarding any low channel bass, it sounded rich without too much punch. Serviceable, clean audio is the ticket here. Only a 5.1 English track is included, while English and Spanish subtitles are available.

The Extras:

A Making Of Gray Matters featurette touches briefly on some of the motivations for the actors. It also includes some tangible commentary from director Kramer, as well. In all, however, it's a large portion of pseudo-marketing fluff that doesn't provide a terrible amount of insight.

Also included is the evil Theatrical Trailer I viewed once before that makes the film looks quite alluring. Well edited and adept at sucking in your attention to the flick, I enjoyed the trailer much more than the full-length film, sadly. It's relatively safe to watch before viewing the film, but be prepared to be a bit disappointed.

Previews for Winter Passing, Find Me Guilty, and Haven round out the rest of this disc.


Final Thoughts:

Instead of being something akin to a cutting edge sexuality comedy, Gray Matters takes the safe road by gingerly dancing around and fiddling with a generally attractive concept. Though the performances are decent and the storyline in itself carries some strength, Gray Matters' comedic timing and verbal delivery amidst this haphazard script are ultimately pretty underwhelming. Graham's performance as the bubbly, goofy Gray (and a few scenes with her and Moynahan) within a timidly affectionate story does make this little comedy worth a quick Rental, though. Just don't expect too many laughs.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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