We need movies about the Iraq War, but not one as strenuously inarticulate as Grace Is Gone—a maudlin, grief-porn variation on National Lampoon’s Vacation. Informed while his two daughters are at school that his wife has been killed in Iraq, hawkish (but distinctly owlish-looking) army vet John Cusack retreats into a state of mental illness. Sporting oversize glasses and a bad haircut, this most authoritarian of parents—who chastises one of his girls for watching the news—drops all pretense of responsibility. Incapable of telling his daughters that their mother is dead, he proposes the movie-approved solution to pathological denial: a road trip to an amusement park. Nothing outs confessions like AAA.
Indeed, setting aside the fellatio issue, the plot’s progression is remarkably similar to that of The Brown Bunny. There’s little character here—only meaningless behavior. Cusack leaves messages to his late wife on their answering machine. The girls may or may not comprehend what’s happened, but every line (“Do you ever think that Mom should have stayed home?”) is delivered as cloyingly as possible. Allergic to politics and indifferent to visuals, writer-director James C. Strouse milks cheap suspense from Cusack’s reluctance to speak: When will he tell them? It’s a narrative strategy that neither informs, challenges nor heals.
Cast and crew