Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grace is Gone - touching and real

I finally, FINALLY got around to watching Grace is Gone. It had sat in my DVR for a loooong time, and I got sick enough of seeing the title there that I settled in for a night of movie watching.

I really should have watched this film a long time ago. Grace is Gone stars John Cusack, Shelan O'Keefe, and Gracie Bednarczyk. As the film opens, we are introduced to Stanley Phillips (Cusack), a middle-aged man who is keeping the home fires burning with his two daughters while his wife, Grace, fights as a U.S. soldier in Iraq.

One morning after the girls have left for school, two uniformed officers knock on Stanley's door and inform him that his wife has been killed in action. Stanley is lost. Rather than tell Heidi (the eldest, played with precision by O'Keefe) and Dawn (a bubbly and sweet Bednarczyk) the horrible news when they arrive home from school that day, he decides to take them on a road trip to Enchanted Gardens, an amusement park in Florida. During the rest of the film, we follow Stanley and his two daughters as they navigate their way together and eventually connect.

Performances are what make this film. I thought Cusack, as always, was wonderful. He has an everyman quality in Grace is Gone that I really liked. Bednarczyk as Dawn was so peppy and natural, and she served as a wonderful foil to the darkness of the film. But the breakout star here is O'Keefe. Her quiet ways. Her unaffected mannerisms. The way she'd pull her small little mouth up. She did an amazing job as an actor. For such a young actor, her performance was nearly a miracle. I'm sorely disappointed that she hasn't put out another film since Grace is Gone (which was released in 2007), but I can totally see that she might want to go to high school and have a real life.

This film is really all about how this father finds his way with his children. It's poignant and sweet and delicate. If you haven't seen it already, I highly recommend it.

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