STUDIO: New Line Home Entertainment
RUNNING TIME: 107 Minutes
• Trailers
• Malware

If you could somehow harness the starpower in The Grass Harp, you could light a full city block indefinitely. Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Edward Furlong, Walter Matthau, Roddy McDowall, Jack Lemmon, Mary Steenburgen, Nell Carter… oh crap! Half of these stars have passed away! By urban legend standards that means that this film is cursed! Look out, Steenburgen!

The Flick

The Grass Harp is based on the autobiographical novella of the same name by Truman Capote. Capote, of course, is the celebrated writer and Broadway personality. No? Okay, Brian from The Family Guy did a one-man show about Capote as a comedic aside on the post-apocalypse episode titled “Da Boom”. Yeah, that guy. Furlong gives the character a hunched over look possibly trying to emulate the diminutive Capote. Unfortunately, he just looks like he has a spinal injury. His parents pass away almost as soon as the opening credits do and Collin Fenwick (as Truman Capote calls himself in the novella) is pushed onto his two spinster aunts. Right away fans of Brian De Palma’s Carrie will be taken aback because now Piper Laurie is playing Sissy Spacek’s little sister. Spacek is the controlling, anal type as she runs the family’s many businesses. Laurie is the nurturing, raw nerve who makes a cure-all out of ingredients found in the local fields with a recipe taught to her by gypsies. You know, those gypsies who travel around to small towns and divulge cultural secrets to those who deserve it. Walter Matthau is a retired judge and eventual spurned romancer to Laurie. Rounding out the main cast is Nell Carter as the requisite black maid who is treated like one of the family.

That's Fronkensteen
"Didn’t you… didn’t you used to have that on the other side?"
"Never mind."

Fenwick is shown growing up in the estrogen-rich home and learns more about his own feelings than how to cope with the real world. When his favorite aunt decides that she no longer wants to live under the thumb of her straight-laced older sister, she opts to live in a tree house in the field that houses the contents to her gypsy concoction. Fenwick tags along because, as we all know, a tree house full of love is better than an emotionally cold roof over your head. As free spirits are wont to do, they collect other like-minded individuals including the tent revivalist/evangelist Steenburgen. Then she leaves. Fenwick becomes enraged at his best friend stealing his girlfriend. Then he doesn’t seem to worry about it anymore. This is standard operations for this film. Just as we’re building a convincing throughline, plots are discarded for the next amusing scenario. No doubt this is the fault of the anecdotal nature of the original book. Unfortunately as a film it makes for poorly strung together hodge-podge.

Wrong fat white guy
"Absolutely. Send another one right over and this time
make sure the heart plug isn’t in there so tight!"

Directed by one of Walter Matthau’s sons Charles, it’s easy to see how he assembled such a cast. Not that he isn’t a talented director; He quite deftly conveys the late 30s period. The ensemble cast is each given a chance to shine in their own way. The message of the piece, a nonsensical sounding “love is a chain of love,” is explained and shown in a clever way. It’s a likeable, yet forgettable film. There just isn’t enough focus to keep an audience tuned to the characters. And in a character piece, that’s a death knell.

6.0 out of 10

The Look

There’s a nice brown-shift to the film that helps a lot to keep us believing we’re watching characters during the Great Depression. There’s also a consistent striped shadow effect that’s kind of cool. The transfer is good enough that I have a hard time believing it looked any better on the big screen.

8.0 out of 10

"The only arrangement that I will accept is full investment.
And I mean it. That’s it. All eight units. Period."

The Noise

The soundtrack is strings-heavy just in case you weren’t aware this was a sentimental movie. Otherwise, there isn’t much use for the Dolby 5.1.

7.8 out of 10

The Goodies

The extras on this disk are trailers for An Awfully Big Adventure, Widow’s Peak and the film reviewed above. We also get some handy-dandy malware. After popping in this DVD, something called Interactual Player 2.0 tried to load itself into my computer.

Listen, if I want software, I’ll buy software. If I purchase a DVD I want it to have information my DVD player can play for me. That’s it. Don’t put stuff into my computer, ya jerks.

0.001 out of 10

"Do you know how fast you were going, cock?"

The Artwork

Aw. Look at the group photo. Let’s see: Walter Matthau, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jack Lemon. Well, I suppose if you’re selling your movie on the stars you could round up, then this is fine. Where’s Edward Furlong, though? He’s only the star. Even the tree house of love gets on the cover.

4.0 out of 10

Walter Matthau was always big. It’s the pictures that got small.

Overall: 5.0 out of 10