"Falling for Grace" can only be called a romantic comedy of sorts -- after all, it's neither.
It's a modern "Cinderella" story in which Grace (Fay Ann Lee), a hard-working, second-generation Chinese American in New York City takes advantage of a case of mistaken identity to get in with the upscale crowd. Confused for another Grace who's part of a wealthy Hong Kong family, she's instantly adopted by a young and rich circle. Among them is good-guy rich kid, Andrew Barrington (Gale Harold), who happens to be investigating the very sweat shops where Grace's mother (Elizabeth Sung) works. But when Grace neglects to inform her newfound squeeze she's not the heiress he thought she was, the outcome becomes so predictable, it's a wonder the cameras don't jam in protest.
Lee, who wrote, produced and directed the movie, is a jack-of-all-trades and master of none. The movie practically serves as a cautionary primer of romantic cliches, including a hackneyed storyline, an overly syrupy score, clumsily staged scenes, ridiculous coincidences and dull performances. And any film that all but muzzles shock comedian Margaret Cho -- she plays Grace's dully supportive pal -- doesn't have its priorities straight. Where the movie shows its greatest potential is in Grace's scenes with her family (including Clem Cheung as her father) in Chinatown. Even though these characters are hogtied by the story's unimaginative conventions, at least their lively interactions feel genuine.
-- Desson Thomson
Falling for Grace PG-13, 144 minutes Contains some profanity. Some Chinese with subtitles. At AMC Loews Dupont.