A year after winning the screenplay and audience awards at Sundance 2007, writer-director James C. Strouse's Grace Is Gone has received a musical makeover care of Clint Eastwood, who thought the film could do with a new original score, which he offered to compose himself. That music is fine, but one can only regret that Eastwood didn't offer to reshoot the whole movie while he was at it. The Grace of Strouse's title is a career Marine recently killed in action in Iraq, leaving her husband, Stanley (John Cusack, sporting the kind of paunch and bad comb-over that actors adopt when they really want us to take them seriously), behind to care for their two young daughters. At which point, Stanley does what surely any like-minded parent would: Instead of sitting his girls down for a sober heart-to-heart, he piles everyone into the car and sets off for a Disney World–like Central Florida theme park. Some champions of Grace Is Gone have suggested that Stanley's morbid shell game is actually a canny metaphor for Americans' unwillingness to acknowledge the full toll of Gulf War II. To these eyes, it's as crass and single-minded as a porn movie, only Strouse delays the money shot with 80-odd minutes of emotional foreplay en route to the inevitable, orgiastic climax in which Stanley finally spills the beans and the girls spill forth the entire contents of their tear ducts.
Cusack lies to his adorable daughters, Shélan OKeefe (left) and Grace Bednarczyk.
Opens at Uptown, Fri., Jan. 25. Rated PG-13. 85 minutes.