Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Grace Is ......Why Don't We Talk About That Later

Grace Is Gone -Stanley is an orderly, organized, buttoned up kind of guy from Minnesota. His walk is a little funny, but he's a manager in a Homestore. He's married to Grace, an army sergeant stationed in a war zone. He knows when and how to tell a nosey support group to back off and if there's some strain at home, at least he believes he's in control, until two soldiers knock on the door with the news - Grace is gone.

Stanley has trouble comprehending Grace's death himself and he can't find a way to tell his daughters. In a blend of procrastinating panic, a need to recreate his own relationship with the girls and a desire to grant them a few last days of simple happiness, Stanley asks the girls what they want to do. He shocks them by granting 8 year old Dawn's request for a trip to the Enchanted Gardens' Theme Park in Florida.

Stanley starts the trip on a desperate edge, keeping up appearances when his daughters are watching but vulnerable to a complete loss of control. Gradually, Stanley loosens up, starts to listen and adds a playful peer dimension to his relationship with his daughters, especially the older Heidi, who not only senses a serious problem, but starts to confirm it with some investigation.

This is a simple story told with editing, cinematography and score free of distraction. Will Stanley hold himself together, will he build a deeper relationship with his daughters, when and how will the girls learn the news and how will the family react? Extraordinary performances by John Cusack (Stanley) and Shelan O'Keefe (Heidi) build a moving drama around these questions, each communicating volumes with small gestures. A few extra pounds and glasses may be as far over the top as John Cusack will ever get, perhaps it's his year for an Oscar. This picture succeeds completely on its own terms but don't expect a light evening, the happy ending is a superbly written, well delivered eulogy.

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