January 21, 2007

Sundance. Grace is Gone.

The Weinstein Co's already picked up worldwide rights for Grace is Gone, the film John Cusack "found himself yearning for," as David M Halbfinger put it in a piece for the New York Times last month, "a movie project that could cast a spotlight on an aspect of the war that the government was keeping largely off screen." Nicole Sperling has more on the deal at the Hollywood Reporter.

Grace is Gone

"[T]he best film I've seen so far at Sundance '07," declares Jeffrey Wells. "It's a plain and pared down thing, emotionally subtle but very specific and often moving, familiar and understated with a Midwestern voice of its own - a family film about a very American, very here-and-now tragedy."

"In general, I found Richard Corliss's Time mag broadside, 'Sundance Movies are Bad for You,' unsupported and churlish, but if there's one film that some of his criticisms might apply to, it's this one," counters Filmmaker's Scott Macaulay. "The film is made with obvious sincerity, it's well acted (particularly by Shélan O'Keefe, who plays the older daughter)... but it's full of so many familiar indie-film narrative tropes and plot devices that it was unable to convey anything to me that felt real about the experience of an American family losing a loved one in Iraq."

"I think you'd have to be a heartless bastard to sit through this movie and not get at very least a little tear swelling in your eyeduct," protests Rav at AICN.

IndieWIRE and the Reeler interview director James C Strouse.

Updates, 1/23: Karina Longworth at Netscape: "Deliberately paced and remarkably tender, the film defies expectations by avoiding political statement in favor of intimate portraiture. In the context of Sundance, a festival known for showcasing polemics, that in itself feels like a revelation."

Anthony Kaufman at indieWIRE: "Not nearly as funny or sad as it needs to be, Grace is Gone represents the well-intentioned efforts of a novice filmmaker still finding his way." He sees in "this middlebrow melodrama" an "opportunity to purge their pain about the war. At least that's what The Weinstein Company must have been thinking when they paid up $4 million for the film in the wee hours of the morning. But the hype around the movie is undeserved, and if Harvey can turn Cusack's performance into a legitimate awards contender than the mogul truly is a marketing magician."

Michael Scasserra for IFC News: "This is politics made palatable, but it's unimpressive filmmaking."

Updates, 1/24: "[I]t looks like a slam-dunk for 'Liberal Hollywood' - a politically outspoken star taking on a politically charged topic," writes Cinematical's James Rocchi: "But one of the noteworthy things about Grace is Gone is that it's not explicitly political; there's no big moment of righteous fury, no big speech about public policy - just intimate moments of private pain.... Grace is Gone has the look of life, and the glow of art."

Salon's Andrew O'Hehir: "I won't claim I didn't shed some tears, but I longed for some window-smashing, lamp-throwing, fuck-all-you-bastards catharsis."

Update, 1/25: Scott Macaulay passes along an email from producer Mike Ryan, which begins, "Donald Rumsfeld and all pro-war Republicans will love the new John Cusack film, Grace is Gone." The argument follows, and he wraps thusly: "[L]et this be a warning to all liberally minded filmmakers: let's think out our choices carefully before proceeding with a war-themed film. We may end up doing more harm than good."

Update, 1/30: Scott Foundas notes that "Grace Is Gone has plenty of champions who proclaim it a sensitive, non-partisan allegory about Americans' unwillingness to acknowledge the full horror of Iraq. What I saw, however, was a cowardly film only interested in using its angel-faced child stars to manufacture a cheap, tear-jerking payoff."

Update, 2/5: Beth Gilligan at Not Coming to a Theater Near You: "It may be structured to maximize the manipulation of audience emotions (there wasn't a dry eye in the house at the jam-packed screening I attended), but it also addresses a subject matter so thoroughly overlooked by the mainstream news media that to criticize it seems almost like nitpicking."

Coverage of the coverage: The Park City Index.

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Posted by dwhudson at January 21, 2007 3:54 PM


I tend to agree with Scott, although like Rav, I couldn't help but tear up at the end. In my Netscape story (http://movies.netscape.com/story/2007/01/22/cusack-plays-iraq-widower-in-biggest-sundance-sale-so-far/), I focused on the sale in order to mask the fact that though I admire Strouse's refusal to force the middle-American conservative to show growth by abandoning his support of the war, I suspect Grace is Gone is actually the same shitty indie roadtrip film we've seen a thousand times before. Good work from Cusack, though.

Posted by: Karina at January 22, 2007 1:07 PM