By Richard Winters
My Rating: 4 out of 10
4-Word Review: Granny hires hit man.
Grace Quigley (Katharine Hepburn) is an elderly lady living alone on a limited budget who’s being forced out of her apartment due to having a pet bird, which her slumlord (Harris Laskawy) does not allow. She has nowhere to go and feels like ending her life, but has tried suicide before with unsuccessful results including swallowing a bottle of pills and having her stomach pumped, which she promised herself she would never go through again. Then she meets hired hit man Seymour Flint (Nick Nolte) and feels he’s the solution. He can not only bump her off, but her other elderly friends who no longer wish to go on as well. The problem is that Seymour doesn’t want to do it as he has grown attached to Grace and even starts calling her ‘mom’.
The first 60 minutes aren’t bad and even a bit humorous, but the final 30 brings in a weird story thread involving a cantankerous taxi driver (Christophe Murney) that seems thrown in simply to pad the running time. The ending, which was changed from the one in the original cut, is flat and helps to make this potentially tart black comedy a misfire.
Hepburn herself is awesome. She plays against type as she is usually a forceful and independent minded character, but here is much more vulnerable and sympathetic. Her shaking/wobbling head, which became an issue and even a distraction during her later years, is strangely not as apparent. Nolte is okay, but his character is wracked with psychosomatic quirks that are too silly and it would’ve been more fun had the character been played straight as a typically cold, soulless hit man who only softens after his friendship with Grace.
There are a few funny moments with my favorite being the striptease that Seymour’s hooker girlfriend (Kit Le Fever) does in front of Grace’s elderly and shocked friends. The running gag of people getting bloody noses every time they feel guilty does not work and the bloody nose that Hepburn’s character gets almost looks like a giant bug coming out of her nostril. The climatic chase involving five hearses careening down the city’s streets is forced although the slow motion shot of one of them driving into the New York harbor merits a few points.
The idea that people would want to die simply because they are old just doesn’t ring true especially since these folks still had their health and friends (at least with each) and were not bound to a wheelchair. There are many seniors who enjoy their golden years and still excited about life and yet the film doesn’t balance itself by portraying any of those. The attempt at showing the more serious side of aging by having Grace take Seymour on a tour of a rest home exposes little and ultimately helps makes the film’s potential social statement weak and simplistic.
My Rating: 4 out of 10
Alternate Title: The Ultimate Solution of Grace Quigley
Released: October 2, 1984
Runtime: 1Hour 28Minutes (VHS Version)
Director: Anthony Harvey
Studio: Cannon Film Distributors