Gracie (2007)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V- 1; L- 2; S/N-4 . Running time: 1 hour 34 min.

As in all the churches of the saints, women should
be silent in the churches. For they are not permitted
to speak, but should be subordinate, as the law also
says. If there is anything they desire to know, let them
ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a
woman to speak in church.
1 Corinthians 14:33b-35

Gracie

The patriarchal view of women and their role that the apostle Paul bequeathed to the church still reigned in American society and its schools and playing fields in 1978, the time in which this story is set. The film is inspired by the growing up experience of actress Elisabeth Shue, quite a sports enthusiast when she was a teenager (she is quoted in the credits as saying when she was a 6th grader: “When I grow up I would like to play soccer. Many girls are afraid to play sports with boys. But after you score a few goals you feel a lot better.” The film is a family affair in itself, Ms. Shue co-starring as the mother of 15 year-old Grace Bowen, her husband Davis Guggenheim directing it, brother Andrew Shue playing Coach Clark, and another brother helping to raise the money for the film. The film is dedicated to William Shue, a champion soccer player who like Johnny in the film, was killed in an accident. Even the hawk that Gracie keeps in a cage is based on one that Will found in Maine and nursed back to life. And like Gracie, Elisabeth was the lone female in a family of soccer players, and, in fact, the only girl soccer player at that time in East Orange, NJ.

Grace Bowen (Carly Schroeder) is blessed with a brother who believes that she can do anything—and tells her so. At the beginning of the film Johnny (Jesse Lee Soffer) bets some friends that she can hit a bottle of Gatorade (good product placement) with a soccer ball kicked from thirty yards away. She does, of course—and then, when it looks like Johnny’s team, on which he stars, will go on to win the state championship, he dies in a car accident. Gloom descends upon the soccer-loving family—until Gracie decides that she will fill the void left by the death of her brother.

The family does not accept well her announcement that she will take Johnny’s place on the team. Her father Bryan Bowen (Dermot Mulroney) tells her that she is not tough enough, and her mother Lindsay Bowen (Elisabeth Shue), believing that girls should not compete with boys, worries that she will be hurt. Her brothers just laugh and scoff. It takes considerable effort and months of time, first for her family to come around to her point of view, and then for the coach and school board to do so. From what we see of her intense training regimen, the boxer in Rocky had it easy. Gracie has to toughen up not only her body, but her mind and spirit as well. As her father, finally supporting her, says, “It’s not enough that I believe in you—you got to make them all believe in you!” She discovers that there is always a cross involved when taking up an unpopular cause.

Gracie is to the USA what Bend It Like Beckham was to England, a film of a young woman striving with all her might to break into a man’s game and prove what she can do. Parents of daughters will want to see the film with them—though the rating should be taken seriously. There is a brief necking scene in a car that makes the film unsuitable for most pre-adolescent children, or at least questionable. Parents would do well to screen the film first, and will find that a second viewing is by no means a chore, there being so many tender moments in the film. The film follows the usual story arc of the sports genre, but as so often is the case, with a new twist, it is as enjoyable as ever.

For Reflection/Discussion

1) Besides showing the close bond between Gracie and her brother Johnny, what other purpose does the opening scene serve? Perhaps that he was a big influence in forming her self-confidence? ( “You can do anything!” ) Who in your life helped to instill this in you—or were there people who blocked this?

2) What do you think that Gracie’s father means when he tells her, “It’s not enough that I believe in you—you got to make them all believe in you!” How can the belief of others both enhance and impede our own dreams?

3) What forms does the cross take when Gracie decides to try to make the boy’s soccer team? Her friend’s warning that she is committing “social suicide” ? Loss of a boy friend? How do teenagers keep each other “in line” so that no one will try to be “different” ? What about the label “lesbo” ?

4) At a point of discouragement, what do you think of her mother’s telling her, “If you want to limit yourself, that’s fine. But don’t let other people do that for you!” How do we let others “limit us” ? Compare this to what the apostle Paul wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

5) What dream did Lindsay Bowen once have? Do you think the limits she accepted were set by others or herself?

6) How is the life of the family pretty secular? That is, does faith seem to be much of an aid in coping with Johnny’s death?

7) How do you feel at the end of the film? That maybe you too “can do anything” ?