Studio: New Line Home Entertainment
US Rating: PG-13 - For Brief Sexual Content
Film Length: 97 Mins
Aspect Ratio: 2:35.1
Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 and 2.0 Stereo Surround
Subtitles: Optional Spanish and English, English CC
The Film - out of
Gracie is a true family affair. The film is based in large part upon the experiences of the Shue family, including Elisabeth Shue (Hollow Man, Leaving Las Vegas) and Andrew Shue (Melrose Place) – a brother and sister pair. They grew up on an athletic diet with football (called soccer in the US) clearly at the center. Andrew and Elizabeth share producer credits, along with Elizabeth’s Husband, David Guggenheim, who also served as the films director. It is not surprising, then, that this ‘against all odds’ tale is one that is built upon strong familial foundations, using the nest of a close family to create drama, friction, emotion and a sense of closeness.
Set in 1978, the story of Gracie takes us into the lives of the Bowen family, a tight middle income family deeply rooted in football (soccer) who suffer a great tragedy when the eldest son Johnny, a star on the varsity football team, is killed in an accident. The only daughter in this family of six, Gracie, was extremely close with her kind and wise older brother. Being the only girl in a family with three brothers, she naturally found a passion for the sport that each boy loved, but she was never given the chance or expectation of ever playing. After the death of Johnny, Gracie decides that she wants to try out for the varsity team, an all boys team, and help them win in the championship. Her brother had died on the night they lost the championship to their rival team. But she is spurned and dismissed, sending her into an angry rebellious phase, lashing out at the world by skipping school, smoking and getting into trouble with boys. She reaches the bottom of her mourning and reaches out to her father, someone with whom she has always sought to please, for help training in order to make it onto the team.
And so begins the great struggle for her to be considered equal; to be treated with the respect and dignity that true equality brings and exalt her brother’s name and the Bowen family’s love of the game.
The title character is played by Carly Schroeder, a sweet young actress who mastered a number of football skills to appear as much the football pro as her character. Carly brings to this role a genuine venerability and strength, capturing the rebellious and angry teen along with the deeply sad and neglected young girl who finds the strength to fight the system, and her father, for the right to express herself and play the sport she and her brother both loved so much. Her father in the film is played by Dermot Mulroney who provides a solid performance, hitting the essence of a man acting proud and stubborn, while reeling from the loss of both his son and his glory days on the football pitch. Elisabeth Shue plays Gracie’s mother, Lindsay, and isn’t as strong as I would have expected, given that Carly is based in many ways on her and the brother, Johnny, is based on her brother who died.
The film has a few faults, some technical and some related to the flow and nature of the story. The technical details missed by the film are mostly related to the uniforms and referee details (given the year the film is set) but are somewhat forgivable. The more difficult issue to overcome is that of the audience this film is intended for. This is a very serious minded film and laudable as a result, but the film becomes quite dark as Gracie angrily deals with her grief and inability to be treated fairly. Perhaps too dark for the more casual family movie night. The football related theme too could be considered an issue for not being particularly universal. Even though this sport, the world’s finest (to me) is reaching new levels of appreciation in the US, for the Women’s side of the game, it is still the best sport no-one is watching.. At the end of the day, the target audience is quite possibly too narrow for this film to have expected to hit the kind of nerve it wanted, or to be as successful as it would have liked..
As the film stands, it is intelligent, sober and genuine, even if it doesn’t quite capture the full grace and beauty of football itself. Some of the themes and sport related dramatic moments don’t come across as clearly as they could as well, taking a little bit of the sting from the payoff. Despite the shortcomings, the film does manage to pull you in, aided by a number of very good performances, superb cinematography and some great tunes from the day, including the Springsteen great ‘Growing up’.
Gracie comes to us from New Line Home Entertainment presented in its original theatrical ratio 2.35:1 and enhanced for widescreen televisions. The film is filled with rich colors and a slight grain and monochromatic hint in the palate, invoking nicely the look and feel of the late 70’s. Nuisances like edge enhancements and halos are found occasionally but never enough to sink the video quality too much. Overall a nice looking transfer that fits the decade the film is set in.
With a solid Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, Gracie has a lot going for it. The dialogue is very sharp, the front channels clean and nicely balanced and the surrounds active a number of times; really shining during the rainstorm scenes, of which there are a couple, and during the crowd scenes. Bass is used at just the right level and the music sounds good all round. While there are a few flat moments, this audio track generally does a good job.
Audio Commentary with Director Davis Guggenheim : - Director Davis Guggenheim spends a great deal of time providing background to the story, characters and many of the moments through the film that speak to family, struggles and the passion of the sport. There is relatively little time spent discussing the technical aspect of the shoot, but with this film and the personal connection to the Shue family and the story, the commentary feels appropriate. The director speaks fondly of the film and story and of bringing one families experiences and passion for the sport to the big screen.
Audio Commentary with Elizabeth Shue and Andrew Shue : – Being a very personal story for the Shue family, it is not surprising that the commentary from the brother and sister team, Elisabeth and Andrew, features a great many personal recollections; calling out of details in the film that are tied to their youths and reminiscing about their deceased brother, who featured largely in the inspiration for the story. There is some repetition in the information shared from the commentary by director Davis Guggenheim, but in listening to them share many intimate details, it furthers the appreciation for what went into bringing the film to life, and how it now serves as somewhat of a memorial for their cherished brother.
Bringing Gracie to Film : – (27:10) – The Shue Family, a very athletic family filled with a passion for football, served as an inspiration for this film. This feature contains interviews with members of the Shue family, the cast and director Davis Guggenheim. It is an interesting 30 minutes, learning how the locations used in the film were from the Shue family past, including an important scene in the high school.
Theatrical Trailer : – (2:17)
Sneak Peaks : – Raise Your Voice & Dare to Dream
Gracie is far from perfect and its appeal limited, but there is quite a bit to be enjoyed in this film. It is a brave film in the sense that the story genuinely takes the lead character, Gracie, through the emotional mud of losing a brother and then finding little recourse into which to channel her sadness. The family dynamic is genuine with Gracie keeping her parents at arms length even when she still looks for her father to recognize her need to play football. Her younger brothers in the film are perfectly mischievous and the way the family comes through the trials of dealing with the emotional wounds of losing a son/brother, feels very real. Overall, this is a film definitely worth checking out.