Shue family project celebrates soccer and girlhood

Gracie

on June 01, 2007 by Wade Major
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Ideally timed to capitalize on his recent Oscar win for An Inconvenient Truth , director Davis Guggenheim's narrative feature debut is inspired by the true-life experiences of his wife, Elisabeth Shue, who was the only girl in the local soccer league in 1970s New Jersey.

In the film adaptation, 15-year-old Gracie Bowen (Carly Schroeder) seeks to honor her deceased soccer star brother by taking his place on the high school varsity team. Unfortunately, the gesture only engenders ridicule and animosity, not only from the team's coach and players, who won't even entertain the idea of playing with a girl, but from Gracie's own father, who refuses to see the same natural gift in his daughter that he helped develop in his son. But Gracie, driven as much by personal determination as by her undying love for her brother, persists, determined to beat the odds, even if she has to do it alone.

Guggenheim doesn't exactly take a lot of chances—he's keenly aware that he's working with a tried-and-true genre, modeled on such films as Bend It Like Beckham , Rudy , Invincible and Without Limits , and he constructs the picture in reverent accordance with conventional practice. Fortunately, he's graced with a surprisingly sensitive and insightful screenplay by Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen, a warts-and-all depiction of teenage angst and struggle that resonates with such honesty and credibility that the more formulaic and conventional “sport film” elements become markedly less objectionable.

Unlike comparable genre efforts, however, Gracie ultimately succeeds because it feels like the passion project that it is, fostered and developed by actress/producer Shue, and her brother, actor/producer Andrew Shue (both appear in the movie), whose own soccer-obsessed family experienced many of the same tragedies and triumphs shared by the Bowens. Precisely where the dramatization dovetails more with the Shues than the Bowens is neither clear nor relevant—for example, the filmmakers lost their beloved brother in the late 1980s, not in high school as portrayed in the film. It matters only that it works, and that one need not harbor a deep and abiding passion for soccer in order to connect with is likely to be the summer of 2007's most honest and emotionally rewarding movie.
Distributor: Picturehouse
Cast: Carly Schroeder, Elisabeth Shue, Dermot Mulroney, John Doman, Andrew Shue, Peter McRobbie, Leslie Lyles and Jesse Lee Soffer
Director: Davis Guggenheim
Screenwriter: Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen
Producers: Andrew Shue, Lemore Syvan, Elisabeth Shue and Davis Guggenheim
Genre: Sports drama
Rating: PG-13 for brief sexual content
Running time: 92 min.
Release date: June 1, 2007
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