Grace of My Heart (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes

Grace of My Heart1996

Grace of My Heart (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Grace of My Heart Photos

Movie Info

Illeana Douglas delivers a superb performance as Denise Waverly, a fictional singer and songwriter whose life bears more than a passing resemblance to that of real-life pop star Carole King. Edna Buxton, the daughter of a Philadelphia steel tycoon, aspires to a career as a singer, and when against her mother's bidding she sings a sultry version of "Hey There (You With the Stars in Your Eyes)" (instead of Mom's choice, "You'll Never Walk Alone") at a talent contest, she wins a recording contact and moves to New York City. She cuts a record and gains a new stage name, Denise Waverly; however, she soon finds that girl singers are a dime a dozen in the Big Apple and her career as a vocalist goes nowhere. But she has a knack for writing songs, and eccentric producer Joel Milner (John Turturro) asks her to pen some songs for his upcoming projects. Teamed with Howard Caszatt (Eric Stoltz), a hipster songwriter who wants to express his political and social ideals through pop tunes, she finds both a successful collaborator and husband. While her work with Howard gains Denise writing credits on a string of hit records and respect within the industry, their marriage falls apart, and she becomes involved with Jay Phillips (Matt Dillon), the gifted but unstable leader of a popular West Coast surf music combo. Students of pop music history will have a ball with the various characters modeled after real-life rock legends, and the 1960s-style song score includes numbers written by Joni Mitchell and J. Mascis (of the band Dinosaur Jr.), as well as one-time King collaborator Gerry Goffin; a collaboration between Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach, "God Give Me Strength," led to a full album written by the two great tunesmiths.

Watch it now


Illeana Douglas
as Edna Buxton/Denise Waverly
John Turturro
as Joel Millner
Bruce Davison
as John Murray
Matt Dillon
as Jay Phillips
Jennifer Leigh Warren
as Doris Shelley
Bridget Fonda
as Kelly Porter
Patsy Kensit
as Cheryl Steed
Chris Isaak
as Matthew Lewis
Peter Fonda
as Guru Dave
Christina Pickles
as Mrs. Buxton
Richard Schiff
as Audition Record Producer
Sissy Boyd
as Dress Saleswoman
Jill Sobule
as Talent Show Contestant
Tegan West
as M.C. At Talent Show
Diane Robin
as Waitress In Diner
as Stylette
Kurt Jackson
as Stylette
Drena De Niro
as Receptionist No. 1
Christina Ehrich
as Riptides Dancing Girl
Jade Gordon
as Girl In Coffee Shop
Amanda De Cadenet
as Receptionist No. 2
Martin Valinsky
as Brill Building Songwriter
Lita Stevens
as Radio Station Receptionist
Larry Klein
as Record Producer
Deidre Lewis
as Girl In Howard's Bed
Redd Kross
as Group Member [The Riptides]
as Baby Luma
John Nacco
as Cab Driver
Lynne Adams
as Kindly Nurse
Jeff McDonald
as Group Member [The Riptides]
Steve McDonald
as Group Member [The Riptides]
Johnny Thomas III
as Annie's Son
Harry Victor
as Journalist
Jeffrey McDonald
as Member of the Riptides
Steven McDonald
as Member of the Riptides
Irving Eugene Washington
as Stylettes Member
Brian Reitzell
as Member of the Riptides
Christina Ehrlich
as The Riptides' Dancing Girl
Melanie A. Gage
as The Riptides' Dancing Girl
Albert Macklin
as TV Interviewer
J Mascis
as The Riptides' Engineer
Eric A. Stromer
as Doris' LA Boyfriend
Robert Brunner
as Theremin Player
Chris Shearer
as Security Expert
China Kantner
as Singer On Beach
Andrew Williams
as Click Brothers
Paige Dylan
as Singer On Beach
Alicia Jaffee
as Singer On Beach
Alice Cohen
as Singer In Tree
Kristen Vigard
as Denise Waverly/Edna Buxton [Singing Voice]
Lita Hernandez
as Singer In Tree
Delia Gonzalez
as Singer In Tree
David Clennon
as Dr. Jones--'Jonesy'
Precious Chong
as Crying Woman At Funeral
Shawn Colvin
as Commune Guitarist
David Andrews
as Stylettes Member
View All

Critic Reviews for Grace of My Heart

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (7)

This is not the smoothest trip: the transitions are bumpy, the lip-synching's imperfect...But rough edges are more than offset by contagious vitality...It may not be precision-tooled, but it's triumphantly alive.

February 26, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Edna Buxton... really wants to do is sing her own material, but there's no market for that in 1959. If her character were a song, you'd want her key changes to be less abrupt -- there's not much modulation.

November 15, 2017 | Full Review…

It's a big role and [Douglas is] equal to it -- but is the movie? I would have preferred a more limited story that went deeper, instead of a docudrama that covers so much ground, so relentlessly, that we grow weary.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

The film's greatest asset is its killer soundtrack.

November 20, 2020 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Charming tale of songwriter finding her voice has profanity.

July 12, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

The lead, Ileana Douglas, is good, but the musical film suffers from repetitive structure and lack of sufficiently interesting ideas.

June 7, 2011 | Rating: C+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Grace of My Heart

Grace of my Heart is loosely based on the life of real life singer/songwriter Carol King who yearns to break free of her privileged suburban upbringing to become a pop music singer but instead defers her dreams of pop stardom settling for a career as a songwriter. Moving to New York she meets famous song manager Joel Millner (John Tuturro) who helps her on the road to stardom and becomes her lifelong friend and confidant. Changing her name to Denise Waverley she writes a number of hits and becomes a famous and much sought after name in the music industry. She faces a lot of tragedies including the suicide of her husband Brian Wilson (played by Matt Dillon) but she overcomes all the hardship and gets her life back on track and produces and brings out her own new album which sells over a million copies. Illeana Douglas does a credible turn in the title role, Patsy Kensit plays Denise's longtime songwriting partner and loyal gal pal Cheryl Steed and a very young Bridget Fonda portrays the teenage closeted lesbian and pop singer Kelly Porter.

Deb S
Deb S

Super Reviewer


A personal favorite. Love it.

Leo L
Leo L

Super Reviewer

Grace of My Heart Quotes

News & Features