Gracie Review

Jun 01, 2007 | 4:53am EDT

Gracie won’t win awards for originality with its happy ending “You can do it!” pep talks and intimidating bullies. But it is a fascinating semi-autobiographical look at actress Elisabeth Shue (of Leaving Las Vegas fame) and her family. Set in the late 1970s teenager Gracie Bowen (Carly Schroeder) loosely based on Shue lives a very middle-class existence in New Jersey with her four brothers dad (Dermot Mulroney) and mom (Shue). There’s even a soccer goal in the backyard a sport Gracie has grown playing with her brothers. After her soccer-champion older brother dies in a tragic car accident however Gracie obsessively practices soccer in order to take his place on the high school varsity team. Even though the boys push her down and her dad and coaches tell her to quit Gracie perseveres eventually making the team breaking down the gender barriers and kicking the heck out of the ball in the season’s final game. As Gracie Schroeder (Mean Creek) displays purity and resolution without any of the cutesy child actor affectations that can get in the way of a naturally inspired soccer player. The 16 year-old actress has a cryogenically frozen Pollyanna look with blonde hair and crystal-blue eyes but gives a toned-down minimalist performance. Shue channels her real-life mother portraying a defeated woman who settles for being a nurse despite wanting to be a surgeon. Like Schroeder Shue doesn’t try to do too much. Gracie however belongs as much to Mulroney (The Wedding Date) as it does to its young star. As the well-meaning dad who is obsessed with soccer and his kids  Mulroney shows some volatile dramatic energy especially after his son’s death which nearly destroys him. And look for brother Andrew Shue as a coach his first acting role since his days on Melrose Place who gave it all up to play professional soccer. As a follow-up to his influential Oscar-winning documentary An Inconvenient Truth all eyes and expectations are on director Davis Guggenheim. Married to Elisabeth Shue he co-wrote the Gracie story with Shue’s brother Andrew and despite the emotional familial ties it is an enterprising indie film. Guggenheim shows a flair for a different kind of storytelling – glossy fictional narrative instead of non-fiction reporting – wringing emotion from a story limited in scope. The film’s dialogue can be hackneyed to a fault with groan-inducing lines like “life is like a s**t sandwich and we all have to take a bite ” but the charm works. Gracie has a great soundtrack too including the Bruce Springsteen tune “Growin’ Up.” Inveterate soccer movie choreographer Dan Metcalfe (Kicking and Screaming) lends a hand to deliver exquisite sports realism while nature shots such as a cliff side or a close-up of a butterfly are also flecked throughout with beautiful stillness--as though Inconvenient Truth’s environment friendliness is breathing through Gracie.

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