Watching the sentimental telepic “The Color of Love: Jacey’s Story,” feels a lot like visiting your grandma and eating her homemade pie. The experience is terribly predictable, but you go through with it, because of the comfort it offers.
This by-the-numbers tale of how a mixed-race orphan reunites her white grandmother and her African American grandfather gets much of its strength from the powerhouse presence of its lead thesps, Gena Rowlands and Louis Gossett Jr. At this stage in their careers, either actor could make the directions on a can of chicken soup sound like “King Lear.”
Set in a small town in the South, movie centers on Georgia Potter, an old-fashioned widow (Rowlands), whose life changes drastically when her estranged daughter and the son-in-law she never met die in a car crash. When she visits her granddaughter Jacey in the hospital, she’s shocked to discover that she’s half black, but conceals her misgivings and decides to raise her by herself.
Further complications arise when Jacey’s paternal grandfather Lou (Gossett Jr.) shows up at Georgia’s doorstep and wants to take care of Jacey and raise her back in San Diego. Understandably, the frightened little girl (Penny Bae Bridges) wants to go with the warm, hip grandfather she has known since childhood rather than the new matronly grandmother who has appeared out of the blue.
Helmer Sheldon Larry has a nice touch when it comes to capturing the awkward moments between Georgia and her new family member. Writer Nancey Silvers also doesn’t tiptoe around the harsher race barriers that have divided the main characters. Pic has several hard-hitting moments in scenes where the prejudiced white townspeople whisper behind Georgia’s back, or when she has to bear the uncomfortable stares at an all-black picnic.
Script weakens considerably when it introduces hints of romance between Lou and Georgia. Also, Larry needs to get over his fondness for stylized slow-mo flashbacks that reveal the past history of characters.
However, one puts up with the pic’s flaws to be rewarded with the tender scenes between Rowlands and the sweet tyke actress Bridges. Visit your doctor if you’re not moved by scenes in which Jacey recalls her happiest day with her parents, or the moment when Georgia and Lou finally begin to warm up to each other.
Pic’s tech credits are O.K., and Wilmington locations have the right comforting look for a CBS Sunday night tearjerker. Of course, come Monday morning, you can always tell everyone at the office that you watched “The Sopranos” instead.