There's a large segment of the population male and female who'd pay good money to see Heather Graham have a lesbian awakening on the big screen. And if the woman with whom she explores those feelings is supermodel-turned-actress Bridget Moynahan (best known for dating football players and, um, playing a supermodel on Sex and the City), all the better, right?
Wrong. Gray Matters is a tame, grandma-safe rom-com that takes place in a fantasyland version of New York City where it's always summer, where young people breathlessly quote movies from the '40s and where the cabbies offer sage advice on your love life in a singsong Scottish accent. In the course of its 92 excruciating minutes, the film's characters are allowed exactly one utterance of the word "fuck" among them, although no one actually seems to engage in the offending activity between the opening and closing credits.
In fact, to watch writer-director Sue Kramer's debut, you'd think that Sex and the City or, for that matter, the Kennedy administration never happened. Though the movie's basic premise suggests a wealth of taboo-smashing comic potential bisexuality, incest, sleeping your way to the top Kramer tiptoes around these and any other potentially interesting plot developments as if they were land mines. Instead, she chooses to paint the simplest, squarest Sapphic coming-out tale ever.
Graham is Gray, a forever loveless thirtysomething firmly in the bug-eyed, batty Meg Ryan tradition. The twist here is that the Harry to Gray's Sally is her brother Sam (Tom Cavanagh), a dopey, beady-eyed surgeon who looks nothing like her, and with whom she shares a palatial Manhattan apartment. While not ballroom dancing, jogging or having candlelit dinners with each other, the creepily inseparable duo react in horror to anyone who asks the obvious: "How long have you been dating?"
Sensing that at least one of them needs to find a significant other who doesn't share DNA strands, Gray forces Sam upon Charlie (Moynahan), a fawn-like zoologist they pick up in Central Park. Thus begins a tedious epiphany in which the now-jealous Gray realizes that she's the one in love with her brother's hot girlfriend, who possibly to drum up suspense, but more likely because these characters are aliens admits to Gray she's saving herself for marriage.
None of this might be so bad if Kramer's dialogue weren't filled with such clunkers as "I'm past freaking out I'm molting!" and "I'm gay as in, 'Marvin.'" Worse, she's directed the cast to deliver their lines in the machine-gun paces of an old screwball comedy, a cutesy conceit that only works when your actors are smart enough to understand what they're saying. But Graham bats her eyelashes, aimlessly stumbles around the sets and runs out of breath before she can complete a sentence. After a while, it doesn't matter how good-looking she may still be: She and Gray Matters are an insult to lesbians everywhere.
Showing at the Birmingham 8 (211 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham; 248-644-3456).
Michael Hastings writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.