Few days back, when I was looking for some war movies on a DVD store, i was handed over this movie saying it to be a very nice one. At that time I was not able to read the plot on the DVD as that part of cover was torn away. When I started watching this movie then I was flabbergasted to see that this is not a real war movie as DVD store caretaker told me. For some time I was disappointed but as soon as movie went on I was lost in the perfect blend of human emotions.
Plot: "Grace is Gone" is a film that depends entirely on whether you feel empathy for its characters andattempts to address their grief frankly, gently, and without didacticism. The story is quite simple and it goes as: When a father learns about his wife’s death during Iraq war, he does not have courage to tell his two adolescent daughters about their mother thus he decided to keep it a secret and takes them on a road-trip to a Children Theme Park, but as the trip continues the eldest daughter realizes that her father is hiding something from them. The journey that started as flee from veracity soon divulges itself as a man’s way of coping up with his wife’s loss and finding the guts to tell his kids that their mom is gone.
John Cusack (as Stanley Philipps): Oh!!!!!! Who else than Cusack can fit in the role of Stanley Philipps wearing thick glasses, walking with an unsynchronized pace and having his own little presentiment and premonition? Cusack disappeared into an everyday average Joe kindda character with such tenderness and compassion and portrayed this gawky, physically ’small’ and fumbling tense and hunched man and a suburban father who is dealing with her wife’s death. A few moths back I watched “The Martian Child” where Cusack played a role of a brokenhearted widower raising a troubled child on his own and I was amazed of his ability to play the role of a troubled heartbroken father but here he came more strongly in this Sundance Audience Award-winner.
He loves his country and to serve it he tried to cheat his way into the Army, where he met his wife before he was thrown out for the poor eyesight which he tried to conceal. He believes in Bush administration and the Iraq War but still do not know how to explain to his children that it robbed them of their mother? His acting was flawless, I was left speechless when he gives call his home only to hear her wife’s voice over the answering machine and plead with her for answers for his questions, for a way to tell the girls.
Shelan O’Keefe has done full justice to the character of Heidi whose own expedition is equally complex, she observes her father and uncle arguing to define themselves and she doubt that how her mother survive with a world of men in Iraq war. She is not only a rebellion (a secret cigarette smoking in motel parking lot, a brief fling with an older boy) but she also know her responsibilities towards her younger sister Dawn. Hovering on the edge of teens, she’s just old enough to suspect that something’s terribly wrong and his father is hiding something, but still has enough of a child inside her to get fleetingly seduced by Cusack’s capricious, desperate distractions. Even in her first movie, she proved herself as a remarkable actress, giving her best to her role when it comes, and holds her own against Cusack very well.
Where as Gracie Bednarczyk played the role of bubbly Dawn and in my views she was just being herself, injecting much needed effervescence to counter the heavy drama that circulates throughout the movie. Their acting was like real sisters, fighting with each other for small things, irritating their father by asking "are we there yet" every 10 seconds. Amazing performances.
Alessandro Nivola (Remember him??? Naah?? Ok ok he is known for Best Laid Plans, Jurassic Park III, Face/Off, and the Goal! Trilogy) also turned in a rather short but nicely performed role behind that heavily bearded appearance as the brother of Stanley and the children’s uncle who distrusts the U.S. government.
Direction: Writer-director James C. Strouse, besides capturing some predictable but yet really moving scenes in the movie and plot, also managed to slip in a comment or two about Iraq war and the truth behind it. And the best part is that politics aren’t really argued much in the movie, at least not that much as I thought that was going to be and remain as distinctive truism of family members conflicting in viewpoints and trying to get their own point right and apart from the cause of death, the war was never really mentioned. The best part is the screenplay which holds the gripping drama with a sense for small details over grandiose statements and successfully fulfills Strouse’s sole objective to study the extreme grief Stanley suffers. The best scene is when Stanly tells the girl the truth, the musical score comes up over the voice and you wouldn’t be able to hear thing he says but one can easily see it on the children’s’ faces and their eyes. A really influential scenethat will remain with you for days, if not weeks.
Scores: Read these
"I could never love again, so much as I love you
where you end, where I begin, is like a river running through
Take my heart, take my eyes, I need them no more
If never again they fall, upon the one I so adore...
Excuse me please, one more drink,
Could you make it strong?’Cause I don’t need to think,
She broke my heart My Grace is Gone,
Another drink and I’ll be gone
One drink to remember, Then another to forget
I think of every day to find, A love like you again"
The music of this movie was captivating, poignant and evocative, especially the background scores which displays the emotions of the characters. Score “Grace is gone” was nominated was nominated for Best Original Score-Golden Globe Award.
My verdict: I wrote this review a long back but some how failed to post. But yesterday, after watching “Heroes” and reading Manjit’s take on it, I decided to post it. Grace is Gone comes as a very intense film which gets unfolded in an ironically inconspicuous style all through and attempts to tackle angst forthrightly, tenderly and without any didacticism and it largely succeeds to achieve it. Instead of hovering a lot on the moral questions of Iraq war movie concentrates on its characters and find its answers on sensitive uncertain faces of O’Keefe and Gracie. If you need another plus point for this, then it will be the scores by Clint Eastwood (yes, I was totally surprise when I read the end credits) interspersing the story painstakingly when and wherever required. This one is not a feel good flick in which everyone goes home with a smile on at end but it offers a pragmatic depiction of regular people coping with a very harsh reality. And is tribute to soldiers who fight and sometimes die for their country and for the families of those who wait for their return; when sometimes the waiting is in vain. I will give 4 out of 5 stars. Grab it...
P.S. In the name of peace, They waged the wars, Ain’t they got no shame ~Nikki Giovanni