Saturday, May 16, 2009

Saving Grace and Henry Miller

"I have found God, but he is insufficient." — Henry Miller

I've been a fan of Holly Hunter's forever. Her performance in Raising Arizona (1987) is one of a handful of the best comedic performances, by anybody, ever. But I only get about eight channels on my TV cable and whatever channel her series, Saving Grace, is on isn't one of them.

My local library has the first season DVD and I'm about half way through the episodes. The basic story is about a cop, Grace (Hunter), in Oklahoma City, who is visited by a "last chance angel" named Earl who wants her to, in effect, "get right" with God.

There are some things about the series I really like. Hunter's character is wonderfully complex and masterfully played. Her dog, Big Head Gus, is fantastic. Set in Oklahoma City, the series makes regular references to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Building, something that's hardly ever mentioned in a post-9/11 world. The writing is excellent, as is the cast. But the presence of the angel, who shows up, offers some brief new-agey sounding advice, flexes his wings and splits, is like some unnecessary artifice overlain on the story. The series would be pretty much exactly the same without the angel. The angel has no ability to intercede in the lives of the characters in each story, or in Grace's life either for that matter.

And it is in this respect that it reminds me of Henry Miller's solution to the question of God. It makes no difference, Miller said, whether there is or isn't a God because, if there is, God is utterly insufficient to make any difference in our day to day lives. The decisions we make, the actions we take, these are always our own. If it comforts you to imagine someone on the sidelines, offering the occasional commentary on things that are all going to proceed anyway, so be it. But it doesn't matter.

Grace does what she wants. The people around her get hurt, get saved, go on with their lives like all of us do. It is an interesting take on the interaction of humans with angels. I think Henry would have enjoyed it.