Grey Matters

I was amazed, astounded, and utterly delighted by this movie. I had to let it sit for a few days for my rapture to subside so I could think coherently and make sure I could write effectively about it…and it wasn’t even perfect. The movie revolves around three characters: Grey and Sam, a sister and brother respectively, and Charlie, their shared female love interest. The movie opens with some scenes of Grey at work, and then coming home to her brother Sam, and the two of them at a dinner party. The dinner party is important, because someone there voices a misperception that Sam and Grey are a couple, and they express being grossed out by the idea; but pretty quickly the viewer understands where a casual observer could mistake the sibling relationship for an easygoing romantic relationship.

This is where the movie first takes off. When was the last time that you saw a brother-sister relationship at the forefront of a romantic comedy? This one is very well-defined and shot: they have a believable, comfortable, non-sexual chemistry. They like each other, but with the undefinable something that makes it seem like siblings, not like they are about to kiss or fall into bed. On the way home from the dinner party they discuss why they aren’t in relationships, and end up deciding rather giddily to look for a potential partner for the other one, and Grey’s neurotic tendencies are introduced.

Yes, neurotic. Grey has this penchant for overly detailed, overly demanding lists of requirements. Her brother wants someone who eats sundaes; she has a long list including not thinking going to Florida is travelling (huh?). Later in the movie, when asked her coffee preference, she says her drink is “1/3 chai, 1/3 cocoa, and 1/3 espresso.” Etc. etc. But what was fascinating about this is that it is just how she is – nothing about the plot hinges on her little quirk. It just is.

So after the conversation where Sam invites Grey to find him a girl who likes sundaes and old movies, she promptly does find him a (naturally) beautiful and carefree girl, whom they both fall in love with, which is, after all, the desired plot point. But what could be cliched and tawdry, isn’t. In a rather bizarre twist, Sam and Charlie decide to get married within the week of meeting each other, with very little plot relying on it. I’m still not clear why that was necessary, but it does provide a couple of things: Charlie and Grey go on an impromptu bachelorette party the night before the wedding, get drunk and kiss, which jumpstarts Grey’s realization of her attraction to Charlie; and the hasty wedding allows Grey to realistically still be living in the apartment with the newlyweds, which she used to share with Sam, a minor plot point for just a few scenes.

In any case, Grey ultimately decides she is completely gay, and comes out to her brother who claims to have known all along. At first I found this annoying – if he knew, why the hell didn’t he tell her? But upon further consideration, it occurred to me that it would be unlikely he would have thought she didn’t know, and rather that she didn’t want to discuss it, which would mean he was attempting to respect her wishes. In any case, this is where the movie really proved it was serious. Grey tells her brother that she is in love with his wife – and nowhere, throughout the entire rest of the movie, even after Sam accidentally announces to Grey’s entire office that she is in love with his wife, does anyone suggest that he should take advantage of this situation. In fact, when she tells him that she kissed Charlie on the eve of their wedding, he becomes angry and it takes a while for them to resolve their relationship back to civil ground.

In my personal experience, real guys actually do find lesbian acts erotic. I don’t understand it, but it’s not just a TV thing. However, I found it very high class that, having used a sibling relationship, the movie makers stayed with the sibling relationship. Sam and Grey are not sexually interested in each other and it’s not even brought up; ultimately Sam comes to terms with the situation with basically a “you have good taste and I can respect that” response.

And the last thing that really sealed the deal for me: toward the end of the movie, when Sam and Grey are talking about her new situation, he’s telling her that it’s okay, what she’s feeling is normal and ordinary, and she responds that she doesn’t feel normal and ordinary. And Sam actually asks what she’s feeling and sits still, and listens, and responds with actual caring about what she says. And while what Grey says comes off a bit scripted, she’s listing problems and concerns that are real and substantial. Things I have felt. Things that the LGBT community is saying, and things the mainstream patriarchy is denying – and she says them well. Someone thought long and hard about that scene, and wrote and played it well. The first thing Grey says is that she is thinking about how she and her partner will never be able to walk down a street without surrounding society feeling it their right to be interested, to stare, to comment, to opine.

It’s true, it’s basic, and it needed to be said. Bravo.

Comments

  1. Jennifer Kesler says

    But what was fascinating about this is that it is just how she is – nothing about the plot hinges on her little quirk. It just is.

    That’s interesting. I’ve just been trying to define why it is some writers can give us neurotic women characters without making it feel like that’s just how they see women generally. And you’ve nailed it: when the plot hinges on her neuroses, it feels like (for example) “Oh, no, Uppity Career Girl gets smacked down again! When will she learn to stay home and bake cookies?” When this characterization does not intersect with the plot to create a punishment or reward situation, it’s “just how she is”.

  2. says

    I’ve been eyeing that movie at blockbuster for a while, trying to decide if it would be good, or just a train wreck. I’ll have to check it out.

    I should have known. I’ve been having good luck lately, finding movies that could easily go wither way, but end up being really good. Hard Candy was just awesome. And the Ex was really funny without making anyone except the villains so annoying that you wanted them to get what they deserved. It did a good job especially of balancing the husband, the wife, and the in-laws, so that by the end of the movie you liked all of them and none of them got or felt like they deserved a smack-down.

    “The dinner party is important, because someone there voices a misperception that Sam and Grey are a couple, and they express being grossed out by the idea; but pretty quickly the viewer understands where a casual observer could mistake the sibling relationship for an easygoing romantic relationship.”

    Heh. My little brother and I got that a few times during the year we shared an apartment and car. I thought it was funny. He didn’t.

  3. says

    I was very pleasantly surprised by this movie, too, Firebird. Mickle, definitely give it a try – it’s not the most fantastic film evar, but it’s very sweet, very engaging, and quite satisfying.

  4. firebird says

    Didn’t get beyond ‘obviously platonic sibling relationship’ to think I would like this movie :p

    Well, Scarlett, there is a romance here – just not between Sam and Grey…or were you hoping a sibling relationship wouldn’t be ‘obviously’ platonic? I didn’t think of that.

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