Stan Philipps's wife Grace is a sergeant with the U.S. Army. While she's posted to Iraq, the earnest Stan is home in Minnesota with their daughters, Heidi, 12, and Dawn, 8. He manages a home supply store. After morning visitors bring Stan news, he takes the girls for a car ride that turns into a spontaneous trip to Dawn's favorite place, a Florida amusement park. On the way, they stop at Stan's mother's house, where his brother is staying. Heidi is an insomniac, who tries to fathom her father's uncharacteristic behavior. Dawn is cheerfully unreflective. They have fun at the park. Stan summons his courage.Written by
When the girls bring the dish of food left on the porch, the Heidi says "someone left a casserole." In Minnesota, it is more likely she would have called it a "hot dish" instead of a "casserole." See more »
[on outgoing message]
Hi. You've reached Grace, Stanley, Heidi, and Dawn. We're not home right how, but if you leave a message, we'll get back to you as soon as possible.
[leaving a message]
Hi everyone, it's mom! I just wanted to call and tell you how much I'm thinking of you. Stan, I guess you're at work now. Have you had a chance to go to that group thing yet? I think its a great idea. God, it's hot here. I'm not sure when I'm going to be able to call again. It might be a ...
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I found the film to be a very sensitive, low-key portrayal of a father having to learn to communicate with his children after his soldier wife is killed in Iraq. It is not political. Cusack's character is an uncritical believer in authority, while his opposite number is shown as an immature oppositionist, lacking grounding in the real world. In their political discussion, both make valid points but neither view is the focus of the film. This is a family tale, with the twist that it is a guy having to cope with losing a soldier spouse, not a woman. Coping here means telling his children that their mother is gone, and his struggle is not exactly new ground. Kramer vs Kramer is the obvious example of a father learning how to cope with fatherhood. Grace, however, shows a pretty decently coping Dad from the git-go. His struggle is more focused. Unable to bear telling his daughters the bad news, and unable to face it himself, he takes them on a fantasy trip to a Disneyworld stand-in, driving from Minnesota to Florida. As with most road trips this is a journey of discovery for him and particularly for his older, 12-year-old daughter. Ultimately, he finds the voice in which to speak the painful words. Cusack is masterful in his portrayal of the struggling widower. The young actresses playing his daughters are completely convincing. One thing that stands out is the minimalist Clint Eastwood score. It supports the sorrowful tale and seems almost to be trying to sooth the grieving father. This is not a cheery, feel good flick in which everyone goes home with a smile on, but it is a satisfying film that offers a realistic portrayal of regular people coping with a very harsh reality.
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