Simplicity is the order of business in the somewhat observant, if treacly low-budget drama starring John Cusack.
Grace Is Gone might be another homefront look at a family's loss during the Iraqi War. This time, there is a gender reversal as Cusack's Stanley is the one who learns of his military wife killed in action.
James C. Strouse, who wrote Lonesome Jim, fashions a road picture about Stanley taking his daughters on a family vacation to a Florida theme park.
The inquisitive Heidi (Shelan O'Keefe) realizes something is going on as her father struggles to handle the truth and younger sister Dawn (Gracie Bednarczyk) appears to be really enjoying their life.
The picture is about the journey in getting to the inevitable, in a kind of raw, personal way that taps into current political tenets. Cusack, as Stanley dons rectangular glasses, is a kind of prism for the expressive, affectionate daughters. It's an interesting contrast to his recent work in the more sentimental Martian Child, more low-key for sure, but vulnerable and comedically apportioned.
Grace Is Gone might feel topical as it ambles along as Stanley goes through denial and loathing through his grieving. For him it's about "believing about doing the right thing" which essentially connects him to the contentious world around him. The final scenes are less subdued, and while the previous capriciousness of daily life are captured with some wit, the premise ultimately feels insecure and mundanely executed. Perhaps like the seat belts for the kids.