The main quote on this disc’s cover reads, “if you liked Bend it Like Beckham, you’ll love Gracie.” Baloney. OK! Magazine’s Karen Berg got me all excited with this raving tidbit, because I did like Bend it. A lot. Unfortunately for me and anyone else who pays attention to such quotes, Bergie either never watched Gracie or just doesn’t know movies and why people like them.
Here’s my new quote for the DVD case: “If you still like after-school specials, you’ll be delighted with Gracie, a half-baked TV movie in the guise of something more.”
Set in a suspiciously modern-looking late-1970’s era, Gracie is about an only daughter in a family of boys who wants to play soccer. Problem is, there’s no such thing as girls’ soccer in the film’s time and place. Gracie’s only hope is to play on the boys’ team, but that won’t be easy, especially since her father, who coached all her brothers, refuses to help a girl become a soccer player. Adding to the difficulty of the situation is Gracie’s inspiration to play — the death of her older brother in a car crash. He was a soccer star, and her dad’s obvious favourite. As the family suffers from this loss, Gracie acts out, joining her promiscuous friend in risky behavior. Her grades fall, and she gets into trouble. Finally, it’s enough to persuade her dad to quit his job and help her train to make the high school’s varsity boys soccer team. But Gracie will need to do more than toughen up and polish her skills. If she’s going to play with the boys, she’ll have to lobby for the right to even try out for the team.
We’ve seen this all before, and when formula is so strongly present in a film, it needs to be executed very, very well to succeed. There’s no originality to offset weak links in the production. The interesting thing about Gracie, though, is it’s actually based on the lives of the Shue family, which makes this quite the personal project, seeing as Elizabeth Shue plays Gracie’s mother, her brother Andrew Shue plays one of the coaches, and they were also co-producers. Oh yeah, and Elizabeth’s husband, David Guggenheim, directed the picture. Unfortunately, this is good for Gracie only in the “hey, guess what?” kind of way, and doesn’t seem to have added any special quality to the film.
Performances are fine across the board, with no real stand-outs. They might blame that on the screenplay, which lacks great dramatic material, and keeps the film soundly on a wholesome, after-school-special track. It makes for a movie younger audiences will really enjoy, but one that’s pure fluff for more mature viewers.
Gracie hit DVD on a single disc, in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, preserving the aspect ratio of its original theatrical presentation. No complaints for this transfer. The film may not have inspiring visuals, but what’s here is presented with appealing colour, good detail and excellent contrast. There are no apparent compression issues, so the bits and pieces of soccer action maintain a quality picture throughout, even in the rain scene. Not bad at all.
The film’s main audio is Dolby Digital 5.1, with subtitles available in English and Spanish. The score and soundtrack are decent, with some recognizable tunes by Blondie, Thin Lizzy and even Aretha Franklin. Surrounds are used minimally, mainly to fill in the soundtrack and some ambient noise. All dialogue is clear, and the soccer sounds like you’re out on the field, or at least nearby. Again, not bad at all.
Gracie is a man short but looking to score on the bonus materials field. She’s up with two audio commentaries, but a lack of depth may hurt her chances. Here’s the play-by-play:
- Audio Commentary with Director Davis Guggenheim: Guggenheim does a decent job keeping the interesting stuff flowing. Hear him discuss how crucial it was to cast the right actor to play Gracie, and a little about the double-edged sword of making a film with your family.
- Audio Commentary with Elizabeth and Andrew Shue: this one is much more about the story, as these siblings are the ones who lived aspects of the film’s tale, including losing a brother much too early. Where Guggenheim is technical, the Shue’s are personal.
- Bringing Gracie to Film: running nearly 30 minutes, this making-of featurette covers pre-production, behind-the-scenes stuff and much more. There’s a bit too much of a slant toward the Shue family’s story, but it’s offset by the parts about trying to cast the film’s lead.
- Theatrical Trailer and Sneak Peaks: the highlight here is a trailer for Dare to Dream: The Story of the U.S. Women’s Soccer Team. If you want to watch a film about women’s soccer, forget Gracie and check out this HBO documentary.
Gracie would be a perfect movie rental for your 11-year-old daughter’s soccer wind-up. And if they really like it, as they’re destined to do, the DVD itself is good enough to warrant a purchase.