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Saving Grace

From Sundance favorite to box-office flop, what the fate of John Cusack’s Grace Is Gone says about us

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Cusack in Grace is Gone


That lack of public interest is exactly why Cusack wanted to make Grace, says Grace Loh, his producing partner at the Venice, California-based film company New Crime Productions. Strouse’s script required the actor to play “somebody opposite of himself in terms of philosophy and ideology about the war,” Loh says. (Cusack’s character supports the decision to invade Iraq.) The strength of Grace, she adds, is “that it doesn’t get on a soapbox. It’s really about family loss.”

In addition to writing the script, Strouse, who had one other movie to his name (2005’s Lonesome Jim), earned his first directorial credit with Grace Is Gone, which was shot largely in Chicago. Once the filming was complete, the movie began “a really strange journey with wild ups and downs,” he says. John Cooper, director of programming for Sundance, recalls that the response there was “amazing.” But he suspected the film’s postfestival life would be hard. “Once you mention the war, people run the other way,” Cooper says. “I knew it was a huge marketing challenge.”

When it did land in theatres, critics found strength in the “small moments” between Cusack and the girls (although a few lambasted the film’s murky position on the war). But the movie came out over the holiday season alongside fantastical films such as Enchanted, and the promotion campaign was depressing. The trailer showed military personnel knocking on the door and telling Cusack’s character that his wife has died. “I get why, over the holidays, Grace Is Gone won’t be your number one choice,” Loh says. She believes that if the film had been in theatres a little longer, it might have found an audience through word of mouth.

Grace’s flameout has not deterred Cusack from wanting to comment on issues surrounding Iraq. His company’s next project, War, Inc., is an unapologetic satire about an assassin hired by a Halliburton-type company in a fictional Middle Eastern country. As for Strouse, he’s pursuing a master’s in crea-tive writing at Columbia University in New York. Meanwhile, with the DVD release in May, he’s wishing Grace will find its audience of people willing to watch and reflect on the movie in their homes. “I hope it will find its place at some point.”

 

Photograph: Courtesy of Plum Pictures/New Crime Productions

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