Friday, January 25, 2008

State of Grace

Grace Is Gone [PG-13]
Grade: B

John Cusack’s performance in Grace is Gone is a big stretch. Not just for him, but for me.

Having grown up watching him and being used to his always young visage, it’s a shock to the system to see him as a graying father, pudgy and in Adam West glasses, stuck in a sales manager job to keep his two daughters feeding. His character, Stanley Philips, was finally removed from his beloved army life for bad eyesight. From the way he treats his employees, you sense his longing for his old profession.

He met his wife, Grace, in the military. This being wartime, she has shipped out to the deserts of Iraq, leaving the family in her husband's overwhelmed care. When word comes that Grace has died on a mission, Stanley slumps onto the couch in grief. Soon military representatives are knocking on his door with forms. And it won’t be long before he must tell his two daughters that their mother won’t be around to see them grow up.

Fearing that learning of their mother’s death will rob his two daughters of their innocence, he doesn’t tell them. He huddles the family into the car and heads for an impromptu vacation to a theme park, to give them one last gasp of un-fractured youth before it shatters.

Director James C. Strouse's debut effort was widely hailed at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, and it’s only now making its way into a true release. This is one of the few of the Gulf War films that works simply because it doesn’t revolve around temporal political concerns but everlasting emotions. The film has vulnerability to spare, as the strict father deals with his guilt and regrets and clumsily feels his way into the motherly role. It’s not the type of film that I would personally pay to see. Just not up my alley. But I respect it for its care and its decency.

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