'Grace & Glorie' nice, but needy

December 12, 1998|By David Zurawik | David Zurawik,SUN TELEVISION CRITIC

"Grace & Glorie" is a story of love and death. It's a brave story with fine performances by Gena Rowlands and Diane Lane.

But, in the end, the Hallmark Hall of Fame production fails to deliver the kind of emotion promised throughout. Part of the problem is surely the script. Or, maybe, it's me.

After watching Bobby Simone die on "NYPD Blue" and Jack Kevorkian euthanize a man on "60 Minutes" last month, maybe I am simply burned out on death in prime time.

Rowlands plays Grace, a woman sent home from the nursing home to spend her final days on the land she once farmed. Lane is Glorie, a home hospice volunteer who comes to help Grace in her final days.

They are opposites in almost every way. Grace is old, Glorie is young. Grace is country, Glorie is fresh from New York City and a big job in the business world that she recently quit. Grace has very little formal education, Glorie is MBA all the way. It's salt of the earth meets Ms. Yuppie.

In her weakened physical condition, Grace needs Glorie, yet she's loath to admit it. But Glorie is hurting, too. Her pain is emotional, and she winds up needing Grace more than even she ever imagined. Once they both come to understand and accept how much they mean to each other, the film starts to click and has some nice moments.

What makes for most of the nicer moments is that Lane and Rowlands manage to go beyond the outlines of their characters-in-conflict and communicate a sense of the deeper humanity they share in their loneliness, fear, goodness and courage. Lane's performance is the more subtle and nuanced of the two. She is a really intelligent actor.

All of which only makes for a bigger letdown when it comes to the ending.

Again, maybe I've just seen one deathbed scene too many in prime time lately, but this one left me flatter than flat.

The sweet music, intended to make me feel good about the death of Grace, and the smiles all around from her friends and family were way too TV-saccharine for me. And, just in case anyone is still feeling bad, there's the upbeat gospel number that takes over as the final credits roll. Please.

If you are going to take on death in prime time, don't cheat at the end and try to make us feel good about it. Dare to drive some viewers away from the Hallmark commercials. Dare to respect the intelligence of your audience.

'Grace & Glorie'

When: Tomorrow night, 9-11

Where: WJZ (Channel 13)

Pub Date: 12/12/98

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