Falling from Grace (film)

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Falling from Grace
Directed by John Mellencamp
Produced by Harry Sandler
Written by Larry McMurtry
Starring John Mellencamp
Mariel Hemingway
Claude Akins
Dub Taylor
Music by John Mellencamp
Cinematography Victor Hammer
Edited by Dennis Virkler
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates February 21, 1992
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3 million
Box office $231,826

Falling from Grace is a 1992 drama film, produced by Little B and distributed by Columbia Pictures. Rock singer John Mellencamp makes his acting and directorial debut in this story by Lonesome Dove author Larry McMurtry. The story contains many similarities to Mellencamp's real life. It is his sole directing credit.

Plot[edit]

Music superstar Bud Parks, along with his statuesque wife, Alice, and their approximately eight-year-old daughter, Terri Jo, return to his small hometown, fictional Doak City, Indiana, for his paternal grandfather's 80th birthday. Initially, the visit is light-hearted and Bud receives a hero's welcome from many of his relatives and fans. But what is supposed to be a three-day visit of fun quickly turns into much more.

At the birthday party, Bud's high school sweetheart and now sister-in-law, P.J., invites Bud out for a walk, which is met with curious suspicion by Bud's father, Speck. P.J. confesses she has sex with Speck, which is met with shock and disapproval by Bud.

Speck, a successful poultry farmer, is shown early on to be a chauvinistic and dominating womanizer. He fathered an illegitimate son but his wife, Marian, stayed with him. Speck refers to himself as a sire and the women who bore his children as fillies. Over time he is revealed to be dominating, violent, exploitive and shameless, to the point of even making a pass at Bud's wife.

Bud and Alice seem to have a good marriage, and she is clearly very devoted. But after learning of P.J.'s affair with Speck, Bud has sex with P.J. as well. P.J. seems to view her sexual encounters as conquests and take pride in simultaneously having three Parks men as lovers. She also seems to view her promiscuity, and the need to keep it secret, as a source of excitement for a housewife and mother who resides in what she considers to be a boring town.

The three days turn into several weeks. Bud's feelings of both love and lust for P.J. are rekindled, and he neglects Alice. Already disillusioned by the music business and thinking about leaving it, he realizes that he's a small-town man at heart and wants to stay in Doak City, where many of his relatives still reside. His anger toward his father also escalates.

California-bred Alice continues to love her husband but quickly becomes tired of small town life and his neglect. She accuses Bud of committing adultery. He doesn't deny it and she leaves with Terri Jo.

Bud tries to get P.J. back as the woman of his life. She reveals that she wanted that many years earlier, but that he wouldn't make a commitment, and it's too late now.

Frustrated and angry, Bud confronts Speck in a restaurant. Speck shows no interest or sympathy in his son's problems but expresses displeasure in having received none of the millions of dollars Bud has made in music. On the basis that he "sired" Bud, Speck claims to be entitled to some of Bud's money. Bud warns Speck to make no further sexual advances at Alice and, in a rage, knocks the food and tableware off the table. As Bud gets up to leave, he is viciously beaten by Speck.

Feeling like he's hit rock bottom, Bud gets drunk and performs a stunt from his wild youth. He lies in a cage in the back of a pickup truck and has one of his friends push the cage onto the road while the truck is moving. He wakes up lying in a hospital bed wearing a brace on his neck and a cast on his right arm. Standing beside his bed are P.J., his sister Sally Cutler and his paternal grandmother.

Alice returns and seems willing to take Bud back if he will be honest with her. Having been rejected by P.J. and humbled by his father and the accident, Bud now realizes what's most important in his life. He and Alice reconcile.

Major Characters/Cast[edit]

Character Actor Character Description
Bud Parks John Mellencamp A contemporary music superstar, implied to be in the country genre, Bud is marginally educated but very street smart. And despite his fame, he still prefers small town life. Though sometimes wild, he is a nice man who is gracious toward his fans and takes financial care of many of his relatives back home. But has a weakness for his high school sweetheart and now sister-in-law, P.J., and is very bitter toward his father, Speck.
Alice Parks Mariel Hemingway Bud's modelesque wife, she is from California and is much more polished than her husband. She is very devoted to Bud and their daughter, Terri Jo, but dislikes small town life and is very sensitive to being neglected by her husband.
Speck Parks Claude Akins The father of Bud, Parker, Sally and Ramey, Speck is s dominating, self-centered womanizer who runs the successful Parks Poultry. He is friendly on the surface but is actually very shameless and exploitive and even views much of his family with contempt. this is Akins's last and final film role before his retirement from acting, and his death in 1994
Grandpa Parks Dub Taylor Speck's father and Bud's grandfather, Grandpa Parks is always a crass and profane but equally jolly and humorous. Even at the age of 80, he remains girl crazy.
P.J. Parks Kay Lenz Bud's high school sweetheart and now married to his brother, Parker, P.J. nevertheless has extramarital affairs with both Bud and Speck. Despite being on the edge of middle age, she remains sexy. She is unhappy with her life has a housewife and mother in what she considers to be a boring town. Her adulterous relationships are a source of excitement for her.
Ramey Parks Larry Crane The illegitimate son of Speck and an unidentified woman, Ramey is scuzzy but friendly and is close to Bud. Ramey seems marginally educated and works for his father in an apparently blue collar capacity. One of the few people who Speck seems to appreciate, Ramey is hailed by Speck as "the best worker I got." Still, Ramey is conscious about being in the shadow of his famous half-brother.
Linda Kate Noonan Ramey's wife or girlfriend, a simple and modest but cordial hairdresser who runs a home-based salon.
Sally Cutler Deirdre O'Connell Bud's sister, who works an unspecified night job. She is a nice woman but is emotionally troubled, stemming from marital and financial problems.
Mitch Cutler John Prine Sally's husband and Bud's brother-in-law, Mitch works for Bud in an unspecified capacity and believes that he's on charity, despite Bud's insistence to the contrary. Mitch suffers from depression and low self-esteem and often doesn't come home at night. He and Sally already lost their farm and remain deeply in debt.
Parker Parks Brent Huff Bud's brother and P.J.'s husband, Parker is the most polished of the Parks boys. He works for his father, seemingly in a managerial capacity, and has a no-nonsense personality, in sharp contrast to his brothers.
Marian Parks Joanne Jacobson Speck's wife and Bud's mother, Marian is loving toward her children but seems unhappy with her life, having stayed with her husband despite his adultery, perhaps feeling that she would have no social mobility without him.
Bobby Tucker Tracy Cowles A member of Bud's entourage, possibly a member of Bud's backing band, Bobby is scuzzy but cordial and seems to be a childhood friend of Bud's. Bobby dislikes Bud's neglect of Alice.
Grandma Parks Mary Tom Crain Speck's mother and Bud's grandmother, Grandma Parks is a traditional housewife. Outgoing, she uses sarcasm and humor, mostly goodnatured, to deal with three generations of wild men in her life.
Terri Jo Parks Melissa Ann Hackman Bud's and Alice's quiet and well behaved daughter, about eight years old.

Reception[edit]

Falling from Grace was given a very limited release in February 1992, only being shown in select cinemas across America. Being produced on an estimated $3 million budget, the film was a significant box office flop, only taking in $231,826 in domestic ticket sales. Columbia Pictures removed it from theaters in March 1992, not even a month after the film's limited release was announced.

Critical reception was a bit more gracious, but even so, some critics reacted very harshly towards the film. Among its biggest fans were Siskel and Ebert. On their television program in February 1992, the film received a "Two Thumbs Up" rating with Gene Siskel saying it was a very well written, acted, directed, honest and intelligent film and even captured small town life better than films like Driving Miss Daisy and Steel Magnolias, which received Oscar recognition. He even ranked it as high as Tender Mercies, the 1983 Oscar-winning film with Robert Duvall as a struggling country singer. Roger Ebert agreed with Siskel claiming that he was surprised how great the directing and acting was, and said that he wanted the word to get around that it was one of the best films of the year, although this film never actually made Siskel and Ebert's Best List for the year of 1992.

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone also gave the film a positive review. Among the critics who had a passionate dislike for the film were Jeffrey Lyons and Michael Medved of the television program Sneak Previews. Leonard Maltin also had a strong dislike for the film. In his book Leonard Maltin's Movie and Video Guide he gave the film a BOMB rating (the worst rating a film can receive from Maltin), calling it "warmed over Larry McMurtry tripe," saying Kay Lenz's performance was the only thing to avoid cliche and that Mellencamp's performance was "simply boring."

Soundtrack[edit]

Falling From Grace
Soundtrack album by various artists
Released 1991
Genre Country, folk
Length 49:43
Label Mercury
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Allmusic 4.5/5 stars[1]

The track "Sweet Suzanne," written by Mellencamp, reached number 68 on Hot Country Songs, credited to Buzzin' Cousins.[2]

Track listing[edit]

  1. "Bud's Theme" (Instrumental) – Lisa Germano
  2. "Cradle of the Interstate" – Nanci Griffith
  3. "Whiskey Burnin'" – Larry Crane
  4. "Common Day Man" – Dwight Yoakam
  5. "It Don't Scare Me None" – John Mellencamp
  6. "Searchin' for the Perfect Girl" – Pure Jam
  7. "All the Best" – John Prine
  8. "Hold Me Like You Used to Do" – Qkumbrz
  9. "Sweet Suzanne" – Buzzin' Cousins (John Mellencamp, Dwight Yoakam, John Prine, Joe Ely, James McMurtry)
  10. "Nothing's for Free" – John Mellencamp
  11. "Little Children" (Instrumental) – Lisa Germano
  12. "Days Like These" – Janis Ian
  13. "Falling from Grace" – Larry Rollins

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Falling from Grace - Original Soundtrack". Allmusic. 
  2. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2008). Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008. Record Research, Inc. p. 72. ISBN 0-89820-177-2. 

External links[edit]