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A Touch of Grey: Public-service spot, maybe. Theatrical release, no

1 out of 4 stars

Written by
Sandra Feldman
Directed by
Sandra Feldman, Ian Mah
Maria del Mar, Katya Gardner, Kirsten Bishop, Angela Asher

Writer-director Sandra Feldman is a Toronto doctor, a general practitioner, and her first film is meant to promote healthy discussion of women's mental-health issues. A laudable goal, for sure. And maybe, shown in a church basement or community centre, A Touch of Grey will help Canadian women get their middle-age crazies out.

Sounds like a plan. Good luck, everyone.

But there is a difference between a public-service film and a movie meant for the public - something A Touch of Grey isn't.

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It has an intriguing premise: four women, former high-school pals, come together in a Toronto hotel room to air their grievances. All of them, it seems, hate being fortysomething.

Unfortunately, there are almost no film or storytelling skills at play here. And so the women's complaints, after a while, make us uncomfortable. As an audience, we can cope with a single-location shooting. Everyone rattling around that hotel room. No budget, hey, what are you going to do? But do the characters have to remain seated for long stretches? And why shoot most every scene from the same angle, at eye level, in close? At times, we feel like we're trapped in a neck brace.

The film follows the pour-and-score dramatic strategy of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Characters gargle alcohol and belt each other around with old war stories. In vino veritas. But there is no subtlety here. Stories don't emerge. They arrive on cue. Karen, the sunny optimist is full of glass-half-full homilies.

Until Liz, the angry divorcée, forces her to tell the girls how Karen's husband, a commercial filmmaker, is having an affair with an actress in his tampon ad.

That last detail is supposed to be funny, but like much of the humour here is clumsily, creepily out of place. Elsewhere, Patti, a flamboyant flake, is bound tight with duct tape by her friends after being caught flirting with a young man in a bar. Try explaining that's a joke to a police officer.

The acting is the best thing in A Touch of Grey. Feldman gets likeable performances out of her company. Self-help groups may well enjoy discussing their predicaments. Indeed, the film will probably go down a lot better with tea and sympathy.

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