Friday May 9, 1997
Chris Kentis' "Grind" will surely be noted as the first film of Billy Crudup's already promising career. With any luck, it will also launch Kentis, here in his feature debut, and give boosts to the ongoing careers of Paul Schulze, who made his mark in "Laws of Gravity," and Adrienne Shelley, who first came to attention in Hal Hartley's "Trust" and "The Unbelievable Truth."
In the meantime, it should be hastily made clear that "Grind" is a fine and involving accomplishment in its own right, not just for what it promises for its writer-director and his young actors. Kentis takes us into a blue-collar New Jersey family without a trace of condescension or stereotyping to bring alive a group of people you can care about.
Crudup's Eddie shows up at his brother Terry's home after serving an 18-month sentence after getting in a drunken car race in which the other participants wound up dead. A loving brother, Terry (Schulze), takes in Eddie and promptly gets him a job at a treadmill factory where Terry and the two brothers' father (Frank Vincent), who's about to retire, work.
Terry even loans Eddie money to buy a car so he can resume his beloved car racing. (OK, that the factory makes treadmills may be a bit too symbolic, like the sign telling us that Terry lives on a dead-end street--but it's no big deal in either instance.)
Eddie doesn't mind at all when he's switched to the night shift because he figures it will give him more time to work on his car. It also, however, throws him together with his lonely sister-in-law, Janey (Shelley).
Kentis gets lots going here. Eddie has a reckless streak but he's also more imaginative than his relatives. Racing has given him a sense of freedom that makes it impossible for him to consider a permanent job on an assembly line. Janey and Terry haven't gotten their lives together either, although they're into denial.
Having a baby has made Janey realize that maybe she's settled down too early and finds that her life seems boring and lonely. If the men are ground down at work, Janey is drifting because clearly nothing in her experience has given her the inner resources to create a fulfilling life for herself along with being a housewife and mother.
A traditionalist, Terry never considers that encouraging, let alone approving, Janey to get more education to enable her to get a decent job might be a better course for both her and for their marriage than his participating in a car theft/insurance scam to bring in more income so that they can better make ends meet.
In any event, Eddie has a sexy sensitivity, which along with his immaturity, is going to make it difficult for Janey to resist him after one spontaneous, even innocent kiss on his part. Clearly, all three of these likable, fundamentally decent and intelligent people are going to have to do lots of growing up, not just Eddie, and we can only hope that they make it.
"Grind" is a fine, intimate film of considerable insight and much compassion.
Grind, 1997. Unrated. A Castle Hill Productions and Kodiak Productions, L.L.C., presentation. Director Chris Kentis. Producer Laura Lau. Executive producer Tom Staub. Screenplay by Lau, Kentis & Melissa Powell. Cinematographer Stephen Kazmierski. Costumes Katherine Jane Bryant. Music Brian Kelly. Production designer Therese Deprez. Art director Michael Krantz. Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes. Billy Crudup as Eddie. Adrienne Shelley as Janey. Paul Schulze as Terry. Frank Vincent as Nick.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times