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Inevitable Grace

There is nothing graceful about Alex Canawati's directorial feature debut, "Inevitable Grace," an amateurish, derivative would-be thriller that owes its entire existence to Hitchcock. Clumsily conceived and directed, this inept melodrama, about the disturbing relationship between an innocent psychiatrist and her patient's psycho husband, is a dud that is likely to disappear from the screen as soon as its negative reviews get printed.

There is nothing graceful about Alex Canawati’s directorial feature debut, “Inevitable Grace,” an amateurish, derivative would-be thriller that owes its entire existence to Hitchcock. Clumsily conceived and directed, this inept melodrama, about the disturbing relationship between an innocent psychiatrist and her patient’s psycho husband, is a dud that is likely to disappear from the screen as soon as its negative reviews get printed.

A recent graduate of the University of Southern California’s film school, Canawati has obviously seen many pictures by the Master of Suspense, for his noirish melodrama is replete with ideas and stylistic touches from “Rear Window, “”Vertigo” and other Hitchcock classics.

Tale begins when Veronica (Jennifer Nicholson, Jack’s daughter), a sultry redhead, rushes out of a revival moviehouse in a fit of hysteria. She wakes up to find herself in an asylum, supervised by Dr. Marcia Stevens (Tippi Hedren). The severe medic decides to put her under the care of Dr. Lisa Kelner (Stephanie Knights), a naive psychiatrist doing her residency at the hospital.

During their first session, Veronica mumbles something about being abused and running away from her husband, Adam Cestare (Maxwell Caulfield). Intrigued by the case above and beyond professional concern, and defying hospital regulations , Lisa finds out where the handsome husband lives and pays him a visit. Once this setup is established in the first half-hour, the movie rapidly falls apart, with its protagonists behaving stupidly and against their best interests.

“Inevitable Grace” is the kind of film that gives a bad name to psychiatrists , here portrayed as less stable and more problematic than their patients. Worse yet, all the women who work at the hospital soon forget that they are gainfully employed and spend their time in obsessive cat-and-mouse pursuits.

Most of the narrative consists of one-on-one encounters between the seductive Adam and the passive, masochistic Lisa. After witnessing a murder she inadvertently commits, Adam begins to blackmail Lisa and to transform her image to suit his desires. This subplot is lifted straight from “Vertigo,” though the heroine’s name, hairdo and clothes are more in the manner of Grace Kelly in “Rear Window.”

Screenplay consists of banal generalities about men and women. One wishes the movie were sleazier and more titillating, but Canawati’s direction is scattered, lacking visual distinction and craft in staging suspenseful or sexually suggestive scenes.

Caulfield looks good, but his would-be regal air makes him off-puttingly pompous. As the tormented psychiatrist, former model Knights is attractive but makes her character neither credible nor appealing. Hedren, a quintessential Hitchcock heroine, is miscast and is given the most embarrassing lines to utter.

Tech credits are on the raw side.

Inevitable Grace

Production: A Silverstar Pictures release of a Christian Capobianco production. Produced by Capobianco. Executive producer, John Canawati Sr. Directed, written by Alex Canawati.

Crew: Camera (color), Christian Sebaldt; editor, Grace Valenti; music, Christopher Whiffen; production design, Marc Rizzo; art direction, Christina Shellen; set decoration, Allison McVann; costume design, Alison Edmond; sound (Ultra Stereo), Sean Sullivan; assistant director, John Richard Glasser. Reviewed at theLaemmle Sunset 5, L.A., Feb., 11, 1994. Running time: 103 MIN.

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