Fall to GraceReviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/14/05 08:58:10
SCREENED AT THE 2005 SOUTH BY SOUTHWEST FILM FESTIVAL: I tried to give Fall To Grace a fair chance to win me over. I really did. I like the little guys, I like the underdogs, I like the filmmakers who grind something out with nothing but nickels found under the couch and community actors taking a break from dinner theater. I'm down with the "I must make a film" dream. But when all is said and done, you've still got to judge the little guys against the big guys, and more often than not, they come up short - in execution if not idea. Fall to Grace is a valiant effort at making an important, character-driven, dramatic indie film, and for the most part it manages to make the time spent watching it very much time well spent. But, in the end, it's just too small, too melodramatic, and too local to be of use beyond serving as a demo reel for those involved.Austin Texas director Mari Marchbanks has never made a feature film before, which makes what she's achieved with Fall to Grace worth taking note of. In previous years, many Austin directors have used the South By Southwest launchpad to show the industry their sincere, heartfelt, small town sensibility and talented big city filmmaking skills, and the festival itself often helps those filmmakers along by virtue of a stacked local audience puffing up their scores in the 'best film' balloting. Fall to Grace is every bit as good as the last Austin film that did big audience numbers here, Sexless, but since Sexless was a steaming pile of doody, that's not necessarily the biggest compliment a writer/director could ask for.
Fall to Grace revolves around three families of immigrants just trying to get by in this crazy world. There's the ex-Georgian clown who can't understand why he's not picking up work in the marketing world, the basketball loving, perpetually-grinning son who wants to be dating the local drug wench (Kira Pozehl), who is related to the local drug dealer, who is employing a weird skinhead to sell for him, a cop's daughter saves money furiously to fly her nutso mom to Paris... everyone is having issues with everyone else, including themselves, and as they all struggle to fit into this crazy messed up place we call Texas, love springs forth from poisoned ground.
Kira Pozehl is the highlight of the outing, though she's considerably helped along by the sometimes awful acting around her. Most of the cast appear to be either promising newcomers who need a little more grit in their future script choices, or journeymen actors who would surely just be happy to get their name on a movie, and though the screenplay means well, it varies wildly between hackneyed and melodramatic through all but a few scenes.
Which is not to say the film stinks. It's certainly a story that has its moments, but any first time filmmaker that decides to start their career with a multi-character, multi-story ensemble piece is definitely setting out on a thankless task. It's hard to keep one set of characters tight and finely-tuned, but when you limit your characterization possibilities by squeezing too many people into one story, you really need to be an assured directorial hand to come out the other end alive.Too much, too soon, with not enough resources to pull it off properly, Fall To Grace might get writer/director Mari Marchbanks her next directing gig, but it's simply not jup to scratch if you're looking for a hidden gem that will stay with you for a while.
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