On the late WB series Everwood, Gregory Smith gave one of the best portrayals of a thoughtful, alienated teenager on television; many female fans admit to a jailbait crush on his character. Smith gets a deserved lead role in Nearing Grace, written by Mean Creek‘s Jacob Aaron Estes, but the material is closer to a bad episode of Dawson’s Creek than anything Everwood had to offer.
Smith plays Henry Nearing, a witty-but-adrift teenager mourning the death of his mother. He starts a relationship with Jordana Brewster’s Grace (Nearing Grace get it?), a popular, upper-class girl. The movie is set in 1978 (it’s based on an out-of-print 1979 novel by Scott Sommer), which plays little role in the plot other than to allow familiar period music to blast on the soundtrack. In between, there’s a lot of pot and dialogue so wordy and unrealistic that one character asks Nearing, “How come youre always talking like youre quoting a fortune cookie lately?”
The actors do the best they can with the material: Brian Doyle-Murray gives a wry reading of his lines as guidance counselor, and David Morse doesn’t have nearly enough to do as Henry’s hippied-out father. Otherwise, there’s a seemingly endless series of scenes where Grace teases and/or seduces Henry and admits she’s a tease. He mistakes it for love while ignoring his adoring best friend (Ashley Johnson, whose side-ponytail resembles Deb from Napoleon Dynamite).
Grace doesn’t say anything about hippie parents, alienated youth and 1970s music that isn’t done better by Frank Portman’s King Dork. Smith has a bright future, but for now, you’re better off with Everwood reruns on ABC Family.
Nearing Grace opens Friday at across the Triangle.