"No urgent drama in sight, but sweet and easy to watch"
Snuggled between a female empowerment movie and a coming-of-age drama is “Gracie.” A film of big heart and small charms, “Gracie” dares to enter the summer movie sweepstakes being the lone picture about, gulp, feelings and personal determination. How dare they!Living in the shadow of her athlete brothers, Gracie (Carly Schroeder) struggles to keep her father’s (Dermot Mulroney) attention and feel valued in a male society that doesn’t want her around. When Gracie’s eldest brother, a soccer star and her biggest supporter, dies, the family is left in a dark pit of grief. Looking to celebrate her brother’s life, Gracie decides to try out for the boys’ soccer team at her school, only to find rejection and sexism greeting her at every turn.
“Gracie” is a thinly-veiled autobiographical tale of the Shue family (Elizabeth and Andrew co-star), and how the loss of an older brother shaped their emotional perspective and memories. Events and characters have been changed, but it doesn’t take a detective to sense that “Gracie” comes from someplace very personal and deeply felt.
Soccer is the marketable element here, but “Gracie” is as much about dealing with loss as it is scoring the perfect goal. With a lovely lead performance from Schroeder, the film manages to sneak under the requisite “girls ain’t any good!” fluff to find sympathy with Gracie that goes beyond her struggles of equality. Over the course of the film, we also witness the character deal with her age, and in some uncomfortable sequences, sexuality she isn’t used to yet. “Gracie” isn’t a complicated piece of cinema, but the script wants more for itself outside of male bullies and hazing, and I enjoyed that persistence.
“Gracie” certainly has a comfort zone (much of it deals with classic rock tunes to set the 1978 mood), but the performances are alert enough to help the film get through some formulaic plot turns. Director Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth” and Elizabeth’s husband) respects “Gracie” too much to try and explore new areas of grief and doubt; but his little attempts to buck trends, including staging the “big game” grand finale at a season opener and maintaining the ostracizing of Gracie to the bitter end.This is a sweet picture; a surefire inspirational tool and a good piece of history for today’s neglectful young women. “Gracie” is also a kind, modest alternative to all the big bangs of the summer.