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  Publicity Stills of
"Grace Is Gone"
(Courtesy from GV)

Genre: Drama
Director: James C. Strouse
Cast: John Cusack, Emily Churchill, Rebecca Spence, Alessandro Nivola, Shelan O'Keefe, Gracie Bednarczyk

RunTime: 1 hr 26 mins
Released By: GV
Rating: PG
Official Website: http://www.graceisgone-themovie.com/

Opening Day: 20 March 2008 (Exclusively at GV Vivo)


There was a time when Stanley Phillips (John Cusack) could see his entire life clearly. He dreamed of patriotic service and was destined for a military career. He came close to that dream until it was cut short simply because of his poor eyesight. Now he’s serving customers at a home supply store while his Sergeant wife is fighting in Iraq.

Equally as awkward at home as he is at work, he’s raising Heidi, their twelve-year-old daughter and her 8-year-old sister Dawn. Although a loving father, Stanley is unable to conform to a more affectionate role and the girls miss their mother deeply.

While tolerating his job and stumbling through parenting he is abruptly awakened when tragedy strikes. Ill prepared to deal with it himself, he is at a complete loss contemplating how to tell his children. Desperate to delay telling the children they embark on a spontaneous road trip. Grasping to give them their last moments of innocence, Stanley reveals a softer side as they travel to Dawn’s chosen destination – Enchanted Gardens Theme Park.

The farther they drive the closer they become yet Stanley knows he must face the inevitable task of changing their lives forever.

Movie Review:

“Grace Is Gone” is an anti-war film that pretends it isn’t, much like Paul Haggis’s lumpy “In the Valley of Elah”, that situates its politics through a proud Midwestern patriot’s gradual acceptance of the social ills present in war-time America when personal tragedy disintegrates his family unit. It unabashedly goes for the heartstrings, and wisely attempts to eschew a critique of the Iraq War in favour of exploring a husband and father’s dread. Unfortunately James C. Strouse's directorial debut would have been a more complete, delicate film if it weren’t for his insistence in stereotyping and brazenly riding its polemic waves of balky conservatism and reactionary liberalism.

They say that the war is fought over there so they don’t have to fight it over here. But military reject Stanley Philips (John Cusack) sees no reprieve from this when his wife, the titular Sergeant Grace Ann Phillips, has been reportedly killed in action in Iraq. His two young daughters, the precocious 12-year-old Heidi (a terrific Shelan O'Keefe) and 8-year-old Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk) are left in the dark, as Stanley subsequently whisks them off on an undetermined road trip across the country. Various characters are met (none distinctly memorable) during this trip, including John (Alessandro Nivola), Stanley’s left-leaning unemployed brother, who force Stanley to tackle his views on a situation that is responsible for multitudes of devastation that he has heretofore actively denied.

While paved with the best of intentions, Strouse’s aims for emotional truth lose its lustre of earnestness when confronting the rote reality that war is a terrible thing and that soldiers do perish. However, Strouse inappropriately uses Stanley’s sense of delay, coupled with Heidi’s increasing suspicions to her father’s change of character as a lax screenwriting tool bordering on manipulation for the inevitable pay-off when the truth finally comes to light. These courses of cloyingly contrived events are an actor’s favourite canvas to display the sort of emotional zeal. And reliably, Cusack steps up to the mark and does not disappoint in a film that cluelessly languishes in a level beneath him. His performance is equal parts compassion and turmoil, and shows the kind of physical dependency that enhances the role of a flawed man anchored with a leaden soul, that’s just unable to face up to the realities of a brave new world.

Movie Rating:

(Amidst its implicit agenda, we’re barely left with a compelling family drama held together by a marvellous John Cusack)

Review by Justin Deimen


. In The Valley Of Elah (2007)

. Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

. The Ice Harvest (2005)


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