There may be smoke, but there is definitely no fire in "Saving Grace," a wispy drug comedy that is a kind of Cheech and Chong movie for the Masterpiece Theater set.
Brenda Blethyn ("Secrets and Lies") plays Grace, a recent widow who lives in the mansion that dominates a small Cornish town. She finds out, however, when she goes to settle her estate, that the reason her late husband went skydiving without a parachute is that he was broke.
Grace is a world class orchid grower, and losing her garden worries her far more than loss of status or the house. When her loyal gardener, Matthew, (Craig Ferguson of TV's "Drew Carey Show," who also co-wrote the movie) asks her to tend to his sick marijuana plant, Grace has a brainstorm. Why not use her knowledge of hydroponics to turn a quick buck by growing more-- lots more-- and settle her massive debts?
This concerns Matthew's girlfriend, Nicky, a lobster boat captain, who is trying to break the news that she is pregnant; but is worried that he might be facing a long prison term.
The audience won't worry about that very much, however. Such real world considerations seem very out of place in "Saving Grace." This is one of the recent crop of British movies that relies heavily on whimsy and charm-- but very little else.
The town is made up of the kind of characters made popular in Bill Forsyth's "Local Hero," and of which there has been a bumper crop of late, in movies like "Waking Ned Devine," "The Full Monty" and "The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain."
Here, we get a seemingly clueless constable who is chasing poachers while the worlds best pot crop is growing under his nose, two old ladies who think Grace's crop is tea-- and appropriate some for themselves and spend the rest of the movie high-- and other stock characters who seem to have wandered in from these other movies.
When Grace heads into London in her white summer suit to try to find a dealer to move her drugs, there are a few scenes that are worth a laugh, but for most of the movie, a grin is about all its worth.
"Saving Grace" aims for farce in the last act, after Grace contacts a dealer who is at a high enough level to move her product. The dealer, Jacques, (Tcheky Karyo) is utterly charmed by Grace, but she thinks his motives are sinister, leading to a lethargic conclusion that means to be a hilarious comedy of errors.
One scene sums up the movies weaknesses pretty well. Grace is taking her first hit of pot, and begins giggling uncontrollably at Matthew's brogue, "You are SO Scottish," she howls. The moviemakers seem to want us to have a similar reaction with about as little reason.
The movie relentlessly goes for a cheap imitation of Bill Forsyth whimsy, when what is really needed is some Monty Python-style anarchy. Actually, the film's loopiest idea may be that something called "The New York Book Awards" would get Oscar-like world wide television coverage. If only.
Maybe it would have helped if I'd had something stronger than a Diet Coke on my way to see this movie. You can't help but suspect that several plants may have been harmed in the making of this movie-- and that made it seem funnier at the time.