By Shawn McKenzie 08/16/2007
Fifteen-year-old Grace Bowen (Carly Schroeder) is the only girl in a family of soccer-obsessed boys. In 1978 in South Orange, NJ, oldest son Johnny (Jesse Lee Soffer) is the star on the Columbia Cougars high school squad, and younger brothers Mike (Hunter Schroeder) and Daniel (Trevor Heins) look up to him. Their dad Bryan (Dermot Mulroney) encourages the boys in their soccer practices, but he practically ignores Grace or her mom Lindsay (Elisabeth Shue) in lieu of supporting his sons. When Johnny is killed in a car accident, the family is devastated. Grace decides to try out for the boys’ soccer team to honor her brother and to prove that she can do it, since she actually has some soccer skills herself. She runs into many roadblocks trying to get on the team, including her unsupportive dad, Coach Colasanti (John Doman), and team member Kyle Rhodes (Christopher Shand), who only supported her at first to get into her pants. Her mom and family friend and current player Peter Wicker (Joshua Caras) are behind her though, and her dad eventually comes around, so Grace trains to make the team…along with trying to be allowed to be on the team.
Gracie is a movie that would be unique…if it weren’t bogged down by sports movie clichés.
The production was truly a family affair. The movie is loosely based on the real story of Elisabeth Shue (who also plays a part as Grace’s mother.) Her brother, Andrew, co-wrote the screenplay (and has a small role as junior varsity coach Owen Clark.) Elisabeth’s husband, Davis Guggenheim, directed the movie (and co-wrote the screenplay along with Andrew.) I think that I heard about some other family members who were involved, but I didn’t do enough research to find out who they were.
Since it was such a personal project for the Shue family, then you would think that it would have been better. It ends up being hokey and over-sentimental, with not a lot more to offer than your basic “based on a true story” sports flick. I’ve already been subjected to Pride from this year and We Are Marshall from last December, and I didn’t want to see another one here.
I would have been more interested in learning more about the behind-the-field action going on than in the soccer action. Title IX, a law enacted in 1972 that prohibits any sort of sex-based discrimination in high school and colligate sports, would have been more interesting than your typical sports yarn. It looks like this movie, being set in 1978, would have shown Grace’s fight to point out that this law hadn’t reached the New Jersey school administrators yet…but it just glosses over that detail. If they had dived into it further, I would have given it points for originality.
Do you think that Guggenheim only did this movie just because he is a Shue family member by marriage? Not that he has an impressive fictional directorial track record anyway. He may have won an Oscar for last year’s Best Documentary Feature winner, An Inconvenient Truth, but his only other fictional movie is 2000’s not-very-sexy R-rated thriller Gossip. Otherwise, he has only done mostly TV work. A PG-rated family sports film seems like an odd follow-up project.
As a sports flick, Gracie is okay. The soccer action is decent, though it’s not nearly as good as 2002’s Bend It Like Beckham (in soccer action or story) or 2001’s Shaolin Soccer (in pure exciting soccer action…though it’s hard to ignore that movie’s combination of soccer and martial arts.) At least the movie’s soccer action was better than 2005’s Kicking & Screaming, last year’s She’s the Man, or even 1992’s Ladybugs. I just think that making a movie a personal project doesn’t mean that you can’t make it original.
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