Looking For Grace
Richard Roxburgh, Radha Mitchell, Odessa Young, Terry Norris
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…throws tonal consistency out the window…
With her previous features, Road To Nhill, Japanese Story, and Subdivision, Australian director, Sue Brooks, has happily experimented with tone, style, and unconventional plotting. All of her films possess a strangely grounded quality while also veering off on peculiar detours that you don’t see coming, with the destination either a narrative dead-end, or a new, wide-open highway. Brooks’ latest film, Looking For Grace, sticks rigidly to this formula, ambling along in its own very unusual and casually charming way, before radically altering course with breakneck speed, wrong-footing the audience so horribly that it’s almost impossible to regain balance.
Constructed in an almost Quentin Tarantino-style (!) answers-first-and-questions-later fashion, Looking For Grace is split into time-jumping chapters titled and belonging to its principal characters. We learn that teenage Grace (talented newcomer, Odessa Young) has run away from her parents, Dan and Denise (Richard Roxburgh and Radha Mitchell in good form) with the not inconsiderable contents of their home safe. They give chase, joined by Tom Norris (a charmingly odd Terry Norris), a private eye so old that he looks like he should have retired decades ago. But if you’re thinking that you’re heading into noir territory, think again.
Right from the get-go, Looking For Grace throws tonal consistency out the window, bouncing from broad comedy to serious drama at will, and not always seamlessly. This unpredictability is enjoyable, but it’s also alienating, preventing any full-scale connection with the characters and story as they fail to achieve real traction. By the time of the film’s final, major tonal and narrative swing, it’s just one bridge too far, not only taking Looking For Grace to a place that doesn’t make much thematic sense, but also ending what had previously been an amiable watch on a disappointingly sour note.