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Something about Grace Is Gone caught my eye a few months before its release. I guess it was before it became apparent that most of these Iraq movies were going to be critical and box office bombs. I’m also something of a sucker for a well-made tearjerker, plus John Cusack is all-around pretty terrific. Alas, Grace went nowhere during the Oscar season despite buzz for Cusack. It made it to a grand total of 7 theaters in December for just two weekends before disappearing (it then reappeared for two weekends in late January). But even after it bombed it continued to haunt me. Our local arthouse had its poster up well into the spring. It became a recurring theme at Golden Grouches screenings to laugh at how often we’d see the trailer long after it exited theaters.

Finally, finally I was able to see it once it came out on DVD and get that monkey off my back. It’s not superb, but it is better than many of the other War on Terror films that came out in late 2007 like In the Valley of Elah and Rendition. It keeps the story narrowly focused on Cusack’s Stanley Phillips, a man who loses his soldier wife in Iraq. There are no flashbacks, mysteries, or battle sequences- just a solid dose of understated anguish. Faced with telling his two daughters of their mother’s death, he cracks and instead takes them on an impromptu road trip to a Disney World-style resort in Florida.

Yes the tears flowed a little throughout, but there’s a line between earned emotion and manipulation and Grace Is Gone likes to meander back and forth across the line. Read the rest of this entry »

June 2008
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