Despite being Oscar nominated for portraying a hooker in "Leaving Las Vegas" and portraying an exhibitionistic 19th century actress in "Cousin Bette," Elisabeth Shue has not managed to lose her girl-next-door image from films like "The Karate Kid" "Back to the Future Parts II and III" and "Dreamer:Inspired by a True Story." Her new movie, "Gracie" is a Shue family affair. Her brother Andrew and her husband, Davis Guggenheim drafted the original story based on Elisabeth Shue’s teenage years. The Shue Family has produced a motion picture that should not be drowned out by the pirate cannonballs and the special effects of cartoon ogres.
Gracie Bowen (Carly Schroeder) is from an athletic family. Her big brother, Johnny is a high school soccer star and her father Bryan (Dermot Mulroney) was a soccer coach. Mother Bowen (Elisabeth Shue) is the school nurse. After missing the game winning goal during the big game, Gracie’s brother dies in a car accident. With the family superstar deceased, the Bowen family struggles to deal with their grief as a dysfunctional family unit.
When Gracie decides to take up soccer in her brother’s memory, she is discouraged by her father. Without a physical outlet to express herself, Gracie becomes a behavior problem at school. Eventually Gracie sinks so low that her seemingly uncaring father must rescue her.
As a family, the Bowens suffer, yet it is as individuals that they learn to cope and eventually relate to each other. Gracie garners most audience sympathy, yet is the actions of the unemotional father who saves the Bowen family. Given the responsibilities to his aged and sickly father, Bryan must maintain a stoic toughness that keeps his family unit together. Bryan Bowen does not whine about his tragic situation, he takes his lumps and forages forward. While unstated, Gracie learns from her father’s non verbal behavior how to be a winner.
Being a sports themed movie, most moviegoers will predict the family’s redemption through soccer. Director Davis Guggenheim does an excellent job setting up sports clichés and then manages to trick the audience’s expectations. These scenes create genuine suspense and **Gracie** transcends the typical sports drama. Since Elisabeth Shue and I are the same age, my class of 1981 classmates will appreciate the musical soundtrack from the late 1970s.
While not actually portraying a young Elisabeth Shue, actress Carly Schroeder‘s performance does echo that of her costar. Elisabeth Shue is the maternal core of "Gracie" and her brother, Andrew Shue, has a small, but pivotal role as Coach Owen Clark. Dermot Mulroney is the glue that holds the whole picture together. His standoffish behavior becomes endearing by the "Gracie’s" conclusion.
Hailed by some critics as a feminist "Rocky Balboa," "Gracie" should not be conformed by such political pop jargon. "Gracie" is the story of family values with personal growth. While the grief is real, "Gracie" is never melodramatic. "Gracie" may have been a Shue family affair, but they are relatives that ticket buyers would not mind visiting this summer.