Written by Hombre Divertido
The loss of a loved one is an isolating experience, and having an actor of John Cusack’s talents playing someone in that situation can actually work against you.
In Grace is Gone, Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, father of two, manager of a Home Store (think Home Depot), frustrated patriot who could not get into the military because of his eyesight, and husband to Army Sergeant Grace Phillips. When Stanley is informed that his wife has been killed in Iraq, he must now tell his two daughters (Gracie Bednarczyk and Shélan O'Keefe). Faced with this daunting task, he avoids the situation and takes his daughters on a road trip.
The actors’ performances are solid, and that is what makes this film so challenging. It is difficult for the rational person to understand and relate to the irrational thoughts and actions of someone who has suffered such a tragedy, and thus it takes too long to get to know these people. Little assistance is provided by writer/director James C. Strouse, who gives us too little insight into the family. We don’t know Stanley or his daughters, and never get to meet his wife. We are simply left to watch Stanley struggle.
The film achieves one level and sustains it throughout the film. At 92 minutes, more depth could have easily been provided. This film should be relatable and possibly even a comfort to those who have suffered through similar situations, but since that tragic-stricken group is in the minority of the viewing audience, better-rounded character development would have better served the audience.
The Special Features on the DVD include “A Conversation on Grace” which includes interviews with Strouse, Cusack, and others involved in the film. Unfortunately many goals of the film are discussed, most of which were not accomplished. Also included is “Inspiration For Grace is Gone” which profiles a real family that suffered a similar tragedy. Had the actual film given us this much depth into the family, it would have been a far superior film.
Recommendation: Though the performance of Cusack is solid, it is difficult watching this character make what seem to be bad choices, when so many bad choices were made behind the camera. This film is simply too one dimensional to recommend.
The soundtrack which features music by Clint Eastwood is worth a listen.