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June 2008
Savage Grace

by Kam Williams

Savage Grace

Distributor: IFC First Take
Director: Tom Kalin
Screenwriter: Howard A. Rodman
Cast: Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane, Eddie RedJunene, Unax Ugalde, Belen Rueda
Running time: 97 minutes


Morose Melodrama Revisits Tragedies Visited upon Family with Plastics Fortune

In 1907, Dr. Leo Baekeland invented a new type of plastic he called Bakelite. The formula for the new synthetic proved so popular that it wasn’t long before the Belgian-American chemist found himself sitting atop a considerable fortune. A couple of generations later, his grandson Brooks (Stephen Dillane) didn’t know what he was getting into when he wed a shameless gold digger named Barbara Daly (Julianne Moore).

Worse than the fact that the beautiful redhead married him for his money, was that she was mentally unstable and given to bouts of depression and impulsive angry outbursts. Furthermore, she led a decadent, self-indulgent lifestyle marked by infidelity and substance abuse, so it is no surprise that her marital relationship was so stormy.

Some people should never have kids, case in point, the Baekelands But unfortunately, they did have a son, Tony (Eddie RedJunene), who turned out to be even nuttier than his domineering mother. No doubt, he was driven crazy by her going to great lengths to change his sexual preference once she realized he was gay.

Not only did she pressure him to date girls, but the incestuous cougar even pounced upon the poor boy to try to turn him straight. But because Tony didn’t share her Oedipal inclinations, theirs wasn’t a story with a happily ever after ending.

The tragic trajectory of this dysfunction family is carefully chronicled by Savage Grace, a warts-and-all bio-pic directed by Tom Kalin. Spanning the years of 1946 through 1972, the picture unfolds against assorted glamorous backdrops in cities like New York, Paris, Mallorca and London.

Don’t be deceived by the glitz, for despite the Baekelands being able to afford the finer things in life, their wealth proved to be no defense against such antisocial behaviors as suicide, matricide and grandma-cide. A feel-bad peek at how the other half lives showing that no one knows what goes on behind closed doors.