GRACIE
© 2007 by C.E. Murphy. All Rights Reserved.

(for 1995's LEAVING LAS VEGAS), Elisabeth
Shue struck a blow for feminism as a junior high
school student: determined to play soccer, she
tried out for and won a spot on the previously
all-male team and played the sport for three
years. When she got to high school, she wasn't
allowed to play, so instead she took up
gymnastics. In college, she began her acting
career.

Her experiences as a soccer player have served
as the inspiration for
GRACIE, a movie that is
something of a family affair. It is dedicated to
the memory of her beloved older brother William
who died accidentally. Her younger brother
Andrew (whom many will remember from his
stint on TV's
Melrose Place) helped to write the
fictionalized story, serves as a producer and has
a small role as a coach and teacher. Shue
portrays a character based on her own mother
as well as serves as a producer. And her
husband Davis Guggenheim, the Oscar-winning
documentarian behind the Al Gore film
AN
INCONVENIENT TRUTH
, directs.

After a nationwide search, Carly Schroeder was
selected to play the title role inspired by
Elisabeth Shue. At 16, Schroeder is already a
veteran actress with years on the ABC soap
Port
Charles
and a memorable role in MEAN CREEK.

The film, though, written by Lisa Marie Petersen
and Karen Janszen is chock full of sports movie
clichés that dilute whatever intentions the
movie had as a means of serving as an
inspiration for young women today. The story is
set in the late 1970s when Title IX sports
programs were still being implemented and
soccer did not have the cache it came to hold
some two decades later.

GRACIE opens with a demonstration of the
young girl's prowess with a soccer ball. Goaded
on by her adored older brother Johnny (Jesse
Lee Sofer, whom daytime TV viewers know as
Will Munson on
As the World Turns), Gracie
kicks a ball some twenty feet, knocking a bottle
off the hood of a car. And she does it barefoot.
Johnny later has a chance to score the winning
goal at an important match against a rival high
school -- and he misses. Later that evening, he
is killed in a car accident, leaving a gaping
wound in the family.

Johnny was clearly the favorite of the family
patriarch (Dermot Mulroney). When Gracie
announces her desire to play soccer, Dad laughs
-- as do the two younger brothers. So Gracie
acts out, fails classes, cheats and plays tease
to various boys, including the captain of the
soccer team, Kyle (Christopher Shand) and a
college boy she picks up on a lark. That gets her
father's attention and he eventually agrees to
train her.

Still there are various obstacles to overcome
and the nagging suspicion that Dad doesn't fully
believe in her dream. Like most sports films,
GRACIE climaxes at a rematch with the rivals
and you can pretty much guess how things turn
out.

Since this is fictionalized, the writers perhaps
enjoyed some free rein in portraying the
characters, but unfortunately most come off as
cardboard cutouts. There's very little originality
in the script. Indeed, I had the feeling of
watching someone else's home movies and
being not all that engaged.

Guggenheim bungles some of the staging, oddly
enough especially when it comes to his wife. In
what should be Elisabeth Shue's big moment --
when her character gets up before the school
board to plead her daughter's case -- the
director keeps cutting away from her to reaction
shots of other characters. It completely ruins
the emotional undercurrent of the scene and is
an insult to the actress.

The other cast members do what they can with
their roles but most are playing types rather
than three-dimensional figures. Only young Ms.
Schroeder gets to fully inhabit her character and
she does a creditable job.

GRACIE clearly was made with affection and
was meant to serve as an inspirational story,
but the reliance on trite and overused images
(like the endless training sequences and the
climactic match) undercuts its message.


Rating:                C-
MPAA Rating:        PG-13 for brief sexual
                            content
Running time:      92 mins

 Viewed at Magno Review One
Carly Schroeder as Grace Bowen
and Dermot Mulroney as Bryan Bowen
in
GRACIE
Photo by K.C. Bailey
© 2007 Picturehouse