Observing from beyond the solar system, a cultural outsider looks in.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Flicks Files: Grace Is Gone (2007)

I'll just say it: I didn't sleep a wink after watching this movie. It was that disturbing, and without any visible violence. Grace Is Gone is a story about a man who learns that his wife, a soldier serving in Iraq, has been killed. He needs to tell his young daughters, but he just can't face doing that, so he takes them to an amusement park instead. The whole movie is about this poor man trying to find the nerve to tell his daughters their mother is dead.

The man, Stanley, is played by John Cusack, who somehow manages to look not much like himself, although the only obvious differences are nerdy, conservative clothes and glasses. A strict father type at the beginning of the movie, we watch him disintegrate and become very fragile during the course of the film, in an incredible performance.

The story is told with no varnish, no artificial sentiment, and very little background music, all of which makes it seem painfully real. Cusack's performance is heartbreaking, although the presence of his familiar Hollywood face still makes it seem too much like fiction. I found I had to remind myself that this kind of thing is happening to real people all too often, just so I wouldn't make the mistake of thinking "it's just a movie."

Throughout the film, I willed Stanley to tell his daughters what he had to tell them, but at the same time, it was so easy to see why he just could not. The older daughter suspected, the young one, not at all.

Cusack became one of my many progressive heroes earlier this year, after I learned that he had worked hard to bring War, Inc., a satire about war profiteering, before the American public. Through blogs and other media, he’s been actively raising the issues of corporate control of our military and the loss of our constitutional rights. All of that gave me more reason to be fond of an actor I've always liked anyway, and in the past few months, I've rented several of his movies that I had missed.

It was months ago that I added Grace Is Gone to my Netflix queue, but it took me this long to be able to face it, because I knew what the story was about. Funny, because I’ve been looking forward to War, Inc., but I guess it’s easier to deal with tough issues through anger and cynical humor than it is to face the human cost of the individual lives destroyed in this war for oil.

I won't say Grace is Gone is an easy or fun movie to watch, but I think it's important. The movie avoids political preaching in favor of sympathy for the bereaved family, so the question I'm going to raise now is my own: how have we allowed so many to make this sacrifice just for oil and corporate profits? It's such a crime.

Grace Is Gone receives the “Pass the Popcorn” rating in the black cat rating system, indicating that it’s well worth watching, although in this case, you may lose your appetite.

Crossposted from Progressive Blue.

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