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Cusack plays Stanley Phillips, a dumpy, bespectacled manager at a Home Depot-like construction supply store. His wife, Grace, who we only come into contact with through answering machine messages, is serving in the military. It turns out that this carries a great deal of shame for Stanley, as he was released from his own service because of an eye problem, and feels that he should be the one at war, not his wife. Stanley attends the occasional support group for spouses left behind while their partners are at war. While the predominantly female group discusses their last sexual encounters with their husbands before they were sent off, Stanley can only grunt that that information is private. He is closed off in so many ways, especially when it comes to his daughters, whom though he clearly loves, he is also mystified by.
One day, two uniformed officers knock on his door, and Stanley is given the news that Grace is, indeed, gone for good. He can't bring himself to tell his daughters, and instead decides to drive them to Florida to visit an amusement park, in a burst of manic joy that barely masks his grief. Cusack is wonderful in this role, especially when striding the line between forced happiness for what he perceives as the benefit of his kids and the harsh reality that his children's mother is dead. They make a stop at his mother's house, where his ne'er-do-well brother is sleeping on the couch. When the topic of whether the war is worth the price we pay comes up, Stanley won't allow himself or his daughters to even ponder the concept that maybe it is, in fact, not. Given his circumstances, the notion of a pointless war is just too painful. All the while, the viewer is acutely aware that the defining moment of revelation to his daughters must come, and when it does, it's touching and simple.
The reality of war is only presented in passing throughout the film, his daughters secretively turning on CNN for a moment here, Donald Rumsfeld's impotent defense of the reasons for going to war in the background, sight unseen, there. This sort of indirect, soft focus on Iraq is not dissimilar to the way in which most of us experience the war these days. It has become such a constant part of our reality and is taking place so far away, that our eyes scan the Internet or the evening news, perceiving but sometimes barely registering the toll it is taking. By using this tactic, Grace is Gone avoids outright political posturing, but paints a poignant picture of the price paid nonetheless. The choice of the road movie genre is a wise one here, allowing a physical and internal journey of discovery. Clint Eastwood's soft jazz score is effective, although sometimes overly sentimental, as Stanley repeatedly approaches the edge of telling his daughters that their mother is dead only to turn around at the brink and scurry back inside himself. Grace is Gone, much more so than Redacted [LAS feature] or Stop-Loss, is a movie about the Iraq War that truly touches upon the emotional devastation that is one of its costs.
TRAILER: www.youtube.com/watch?v=APqIvlCSLzM SEE ALSO: www.graceisgone-themovie.com
Jonah Flicker writes, lives, drinks, eats, and consumes music in New York, via Los Angeles. He once received a fortune in a fortune cookie that stated the following: "Soon, a visitor shall delight you." He's still waiting.
See other articles by Jonah Flicker.
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