Monday, December 10, 2007

A Grieving Father: Grace is Gone

Grace is Gone
Directed by James C. Strouce
Released December 7, 2007

This tiny film received rave reviews at Sundance, as well as major positive notes on John Cusack's lead performance. This sober story of a man who cannot tell his daughter that their mother was killed in the Iraq War is a decent enough tale, but at the risk of sounding heartless or cruel, not a terribly moving one. Fortunately, the film does not capitalize on Cusack's character's grief to make a spectacle out of it, but it does let the event speak for itself, which is a risk which does not pay off fully in the end. Obviously, the film is sad, but the director does little to enhance the story, and it seems to drag on for a while, the only thing keeping it going being the suspense: when will the girls find out that their mother is dead? The two young actresses who play the girls are making their feature film debuts, and neither is too impressive, and their obnoxious nature makes them less sympathetic characters, though obviously you still feel for them. John Cusack shows some moments of brilliance in his performance, but the director seems obsessed with zooming in on shots of Cusack's face, sporting those annoyingly oversized glasses, and the awkwardness proves constantly distracting. Cusack's character is never entirely likeable, and he seems to have been tightly wound even before his wife's death. The idea here is great and a moving one, but the execution is lacking, which makes for a sad story that has to stand on its own legs without any enhancement from the cast or crew.


Oscar chances: Cusack will need to get some major buzz for this film by Oscar time, as in a critics' award or a SAG nomination, but I think he will slip under the radar. The performance is not solidly strong throughout the entire film, but it is easy to find a clip, especially from the first ten minutes, which can get Cusack nominated. The song "Grace is Gone" is a good one, and recently garnered a Satellite award nomination, but I think the buoyancy of the songs from "Hairspray" and "Enchanted" and the impressive coolness of those from "Into the Wild" and "Once" may leave it off the list.

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