Inevitable Grace: Alex Canawati’s Amateurish Directing Debut

There is nothing graceful about Alex Canawati’s 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 box-office dud that is likely to disappear from the screen before its negative reviews even get printed.

Novice scripter/helmer Canawati, a recent graduate of USC’s film school, 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), a sultry red-haired woman, rushes out of a revival moviehouse in a fit of hysteria, screaming and yelling. She wakes up to find herself in an asylum, supervised by Dr. Marcia Stevens (Tippi Hedren), a severe career woman. Dr. Stevens 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 set-up is established, in the first half hour, the movie rapidly falls apart, with its protagonists behaving stupidly and against their best interests.

If taken seriously, which it shouldn’t be, 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 instead spend their time in obsessive cat-and-mouse pursuits.

Most of the narrative consists of one-to-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 into a desirable image for him. 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.

Canawati’s screenplay consists of banal generalities about men and women. As the plot makes no sense, one wishes the movie were sleazier and more titillating to alleviate the sheer boredom. But Canawati’s direction is scattered, lacking visual distinction and craft in staging suspenseful or sexually suggestive scenes. For a film that is exploitative and borderline soft-porn, Inevitable Grace is quite dull.

The entire ensemble gives incompetent performances, despite the presence of some pros. Maxwell Caulfield looks good, but his attempt at a British accent, which is meant to give him a regal facade, instead makes him sound pompous and incongruous. As the tormented psychiatrist, former model Stephanie Knight is attractive, but she lacks the skills to make her implausibly written character credible–or appealing.

Tippi Hedren, a quintessential Hitchcock heroine, is miscast as Dr. Stevens and is given the most embarrassing lines to utter. Also inexcusably dragged out of semi-retirement is Samantha Eggar, the lovely English actress, in the cameo role of a disco owner.

Tech credits are on the raw side.