Plot: Stanley Phillips’ (John Cusack) wife is killed serving in Iraq. He then takes his two daughters on a spontaneous road trip trying to overcome his grief and finding the strength to tell his daughters what has happened to their mom.
Who’s it for: This film is for anyone dealing with Iraq on a personal level. There will be the occasional tear-jerking moment.
Expectations: Cusack is one of those actors I am always rooting for. Unfortunately, it seems he is rarely in a film that delivers. With a title like “Grace is Gone,” it’s obvious what is coming. Plus, both girls in the film are from Chicago, so it’s got that going for it, which is nice.
John Cusack as Stanley Phillips: Cusack walks onto the screen with a slouch, and glasses. He screams ordinary. When grieving, Stanley toes the line between mourning the loss of his wife and being delusional.
Shelan O’Keefe as Heidi: O’Keefe plays a 12-year-old who has a growing suspicion that her father isn’t telling her everything. Perhaps the most uncomfortable scene in the film is Heidi and Stanley sharing a smoke in an odd parenting attempt.
Gracie Bednarczyk as Dawn: Dawn is the playful one who is excited beyond belief to go to Enchanted Gardens Theme Park. Bednarczyk does a fine job playing off of O’Keefe, but the endless games of copycat eventually run stale.
Talking: The moment we are stuck waiting for is Stanley telling his girls what happened to their mother. I feel like the film takes the easy way out and most of the speech can’t be heard. Emotionally, the audience deserves to completely be a part of that moment.
Sights and sounds: A road trip with barely any music? Sounds awful. And besides a few moments of peeling out in a field, it kind of is. Not only that, the trip seems to consist of three to five days of driving and then they spend only one day at the theme park?
“Grace is Gone” will divide audiences. We quickly learn that Grace has died in battle, and it’s a powerful initial performance by John Cusack. What comes after is a trip with his two girls that will either endear audiences to the situation or drive them nuts that he keeps delaying the truth. This isn’t so much a film about picking up the pieces after a tragedy, but instead an extended story of the pieces that fell, and we’re just waiting for someone to do something.
Overall Grade: 5