A popular bumper sticker reads, "Boys Invented Soccer. Girls Perfected It."
With the recent examples of Bend It Like Beckham, She's the Man, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants and the wonderful Iranian entry, Offside, one could make the same claim of soccer movies.
Inspired by the real life of actress Elisabeth Shue, who in 1978 fought to play boys' varsity soccer at Columbia High in South Orange, N.J., Gracie is a winner. It boasts the grit and determination of its heroine, the only girl in a soccer-mad clan of boys, a scattered teen who learns focus and follow-through by training as an athlete in the wake of a family tragedy.
The film is something of a home movie. The actress' brother, Andrew, wrote the story and costars; her husband, Davis Guggenheim (Oscar-winning director of An Inconvenient Truth), directed; and Shue herself plays Gracie's stoical mom.
While it has many of the elements of the sports inspirational, Gracie is different from the formula go-for-it movie.
For starters, Carly Schroeder, who plays the title character, combines ethereal beauty with elemental fire. Because of Schroeder's performance I believed in Gracie's teenage angst, her free-floating anger at her parents and at life, her frustration at being the odd girl out in a family of brothers.
Like most teenagers, Gracie is energy searching for an outlet. She doesn't find it in academic achievement. She doesn't find it in her encounters with boys.
After much conflict, and the kind of drama more typically seen in a movie like Thirteen than one like Invincible, she finds an outlet in soccer. And her father (Dermot Mulroney, in a quiet and unfussy performance), in training her, finds connection with the child he had overlooked.
Guggenheim doesn't bring much visual style to the game. But he brings heart (and some Bruce Springsteen on the soundtrack) to the story of a lost Jersey girl redeemed by sport. Yeah, I cried. And cheered. You will too.
Gracie *** (out of four stars)
Produced and directed by Davis Guggenheim, written by Lisa Marie Petersen and Karen Janszen, photography by Chris Manley, music by Mark Isham, distributed by Picturehouse Entertainment.
Running time: 1 hour, 35 mins.
Gracie Bowen. . . Carly Schroeder
Bryan Bowen. . . Dermot Mulroney
Lindsay Bowen. . . Elisabeth Shue
Daniel Bowen. . . Trevor Heins
Kyle Rhodes .........Christopher Shand. . .
Parent's guide: PG-13 (profanity, teenage heavy petting)
Playing at: area theaters