Gracie's Choice (2004 TV Movie)
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Kristen Bell's performance is the main reason to invest two hours watching "GRACIE'S CHOICE." Bell is in most every single scene of the film and she plays her dysfunctional part with all-American charm. Bell appears poised for great success in Hollywood.
Produced by the LIFETIME CHANNEL, "GRACIE'S CHOICE" is a watchable made-for-TV drama inspired by actual events. Keep your ears peeled for the original song "I Belong" performed by Cherie exclusive to this film.
I made a point to watch this movie and I'm very glad that I did! From the very beginning as a viewer I could see a glimpse of the type of life-style that the family led. I instantly empathised (if that's the correct word) with the lead character of Gracie, played extremely well by Kirsten Bell! I don't want to give too much away, but this is a truly remarkable, heroic and self-sacrificing movie about a young girl who bares the weight of her family out of pure love. I am amazed how such a gem of a movie was made specifically for TV.
The first time I saw Kristen Bell was in the Emmy winning TV-show The Shield. In this movie, Bells character ís The Shield.
It's also pleasant to find that the director Peter Werner (who is new to me) treats his audience with the utmost intelligence, crafting this incredible true story into an unforgettable experience. It's probably impossible for any emotionally well-adjusted person to fail to empathise with the main character's plight. Kristen Bell, who holds the screen beautifully throughout, plays the eldest sibling Gracie in a large dysfunctional family. Responsibility for her half-siblings falls at an early age upon her shoulders. Gracie's mother Rowena (Anne Heche) is self-abusive, a druggie, probably alcoholic, and a neurotic nightmare. Any money that comes into their home needed for the children disappears on Rowena's indulgences, while her children are severely neglected. A succession of men (uncle's) enter and stay with Rowena, some of whom are in turn abusive to her, and also to young Gracie. Rowena moves from one chaotic relationship to the next.
Gracie's world becomes a long unrelenting nightmare, yet she provides the only strand of strength and determination that keep the young family together. Time passes and her awareness of Rowena's life-style and inability to cope with the children leads to irreparable damage and irreconcilable differences between daughter and mother. Having built that platform Peter Werner then leads the film along a new path, where the captivating Gracie gradually attempts to build a new life for them all. Without giving the game away this painful quest eventually comes at a price.
2004 has been a good year for film-goers. This wonderful film deserves to be up there alongside the likes of Million Dollar Baby. But one wonders whether film critics write-off new films without seeing them. In Britain, the influential Radio Times meanly awards this film two stars (out of 5). Impossible - it's doubtful they have ever seen this! For without a shadow of doubt "Gracie's Choice" merits nothing less than 10 out 10. And happily for film buffs, Kristen Bell is destined for a long acting career at the very top.
At first, one may think this to be the usual run-of-the mill feel good movie; against foster parents, depicting the dysfunctional family in America. Not so; it is a hopeful story which Kristen Bell, (as Gracie) must care for her half- brothers and sisters (they are all illegitimate) before she even graduates high school.
The story is initially sad, showing Heche as an irresponsible, possibly disturbed woman. She has many children, does not know who their fathers are, and manipulates her elderly mother (Diane Ladd) into supporting all of them- she basically collects welfare support for each child and squanders it.
As Gracie matures, she sees her mother for what she truly is, and decides she must adopt the younger children. Her sister becomes pregnant at 16 to escape the situation, and goes off to live with a different boyfriend. Gracie emerges stronger, with the help of social services and her counselor she finds an apartment, a job, and attends school and graduates as well.
Overall, this is a good film, because it accurately depicts a true story, the reasons kids have children prematurely, and the ultimate responsibility it is of the parent (in this case, negligent Anne Heche), for the kids turning to out the way they do.
There is a truly outstanding performance by Anne Heche as the dysfunctional mother who neglects her children to lead a most disgusting life in pursuit of a good time. Heche is ably supported by Diane Ladd, a religious woman who can quote the bible but could not control her rebellious daughter.
The film deals with how a sharp 16 year old has to learn to play the system to keep her brothers together. Bright, perceptive and unfortunately victimized by a sick mother, Kristen Bell gives a splendid performance.
I enjoyed the part where she meets a black young man who becomes her boyfriend. Nothing is made of the inter-racial relationship nor the fact that the young man has a black father and white mother.
This film shows that a court system can work to the advantage of its victims.
As far as these TV Movies go this is in my opinion definitely one of the better ones. Bearing in mind that it is based on a true story and many of the events filmed are invariably dramatized to appeal to the audience. What I really hate about these movies is the fairy tale tone that is applied to the overall presentation. Principle character is involved with some nasty people, a moment of clarity dawns on the principle character, a fight for their right to survive ensues, and the principle character wins. They all live happily ever after. I am sure the people who this was based on are now happy but that did not happen over the stroke of the judge's gavel like it did in this film. The story is very strong and credible up until the end and after seeing it I felt somewhat cheated.
The one aspect of this film I really did enjoy however was the performances of the leading actors. Anne Heche as Rowena is very strong and consistent but typical of the over dramatization that happens in the adaptations of true stories. Diane Ladd as the grand mother is also very strong but Kristin Bell who plays the lead character Gracie out shines both of these experienced actresses. I really disliked her as an actress before I saw this and I thought she was only capable of repeating her Veronica Mars persona (a show I utterly despise). But as Gracie Thompson she plays her trademark persona of being an independent young woman but she ingenuously gels the emotions of confusion, loneliness, fear, love, warmth and intelligence. This marks her out as being a mature actress for her age group. She really made me sit up and take notice and in this day in age where pretty so called actresses are a dime a dozen she not only walks the walk, but talks the talk.
Gracie's Choice will not be for everybody's taste but it is well worth the watch for the inspiring story alone. 8 out of 10.
I have seen some good movies in my time, Gracie's Choice is the best movie I have ever seen in my life. Kristen Bell done a wonderful job in this movie. The thing I love about this movie is that Gracie ain't going to let anything come between her and her little brother's which is now her own children and Gracie is going to keep them together no matter what, and her brothers loves Gracie like a mom. I LOVE THAT. To know that this is a true story and by watching the movie, it makes me feel good. Lifetime TV has brought us the best movie ever made on TV.
Gracie had to make decisions for everyone, basically she put her life on hold, And as mentioned earlier, her boyfriend came across as stupid, one moment he's in love and admiring her strength and the next he's urging her to chuck it in and throw her lot with him and "his nouveau riche" family. It seemed stupid and trite and somewhere out, there's one stupid man who's lost the woman of his life.
Anne Heche's drugged out mom was over-stretched but drugs do things to people, I was glad that Gracie's influence held the kids together.
The scene where the boys had to decide who they'd live was heart-wrenching and actually brought tears to my eyes. Watching the youngest one, talk about his love for horses but wanting to sleep in his bed and wake up at home with Gracie totally melted me.
This is a story that touches the heart, my hat's off to the real Gracie.
You rock Sista, you really do.
Kristen Bell actually made the character believable, she was and is still Gracie for me.
SOUND SOLID MOVIE
10 out 10 vote for this movie. Thank you Lifetime for this inspirational movie.
It's a sincere Lifetime movie. The story is very much the expected melodrama. The good comes from excellent work from the actresses. Diane Ladd is the veteran hand. Anne Heche is great as the wild mother. Kristen Bell delivers a solid effort in an early staring role. It's a TV movie elevated by the superior actresses.
The movie is most of the time slow-paced and the script is so-so, but Heche and Bell make the movie with their acting. Two lesser actors would have reduced it to a hack piece of garbage.
Kristen Bell does an descent job in this movie. So does Dianne Laid. But Anne Heche steals the show with her truly outstanding performance as the dysfunctional mother who neglects her children to lead a most disgusting life in pursuit of a good time.
If you are not a fan of drama, Anne Heche's performance is the only reason to invest time in watching "Gracie's Choice"