Grace Unplugged is an Inspirational movie starring Amanda "AJ" Michalka as 18 year old Christian singer/songwriter, Grace Rose Trey. Beautiful, highly talented and restless, Grace is so far undiscovered outside church. She performs there each Sunday with her gifted father Johnny, the praise music director at Freedom Community Chapel, a small town Alabama church. A former rock star, Johnny Trey charted a Billboard number one single 20 years before. When the hits stopped coming he crash landed hard, a one hit wonder. Johnny found Christ and a new life for his family, far from the Hollywood Hills. One day without warning, Grace leaves for Los Angeles. She has landed a record deal with the help of Johnny's ruthless former manager and producer Frank "Mossy" Mostin. Mossy sees in Grace a potential pop superstar - the next Katy Perry. Cutting off contact with her parents, Grace seems prepared to walk away from her Christian faith and music to achieve her long-suppressed fantasy of Hollywood ...Written by
Still manages to be entertaining even with glaring issues
Just a few days before being released on DVD, Grace Unplugged was named "The Most Inspiring Film of the Year" by The Movieguide Award's Epiphany Prize. This sidenote kind of baffles me. The film is about a woman who has just became a legal adult and is feeling smothered by her passive mother and hasbeen rock-star father who has taken up a good Christian lifestyle, and doesn't feel she has been granted the right to project her own style, confined to the drudgery of being in her father's Church-group, Christian rock band. The young woman decides to cut and run from home after contacting her father's old record producer in order to get an album deal and hopefully make it big. Faith, and clichés, would have it that the young woman would see the dangerous and exploitative side of the recording industry and fall into a series of events that would manipulate her for all she's worth.
Maybe I'm missing something, but even with the tacked-on and somewhat forced emotional relationship between the young woman and her father, I still find this film more of a religious cautionary tale than anything along the lines of inspiring. The young woman aspired to be something bigger, to inspire young souls with her music and her passionate lyrics, and she was mostly tossed around like a cheap ragdoll. This is a wonderful message for young singer-songwriters who may want to break into the business.
The young woman is Grace Trey, played by Aly Michalka, who was famous for about a year when she worked with her sister AJ. Her dad is Johnny Trey (Desperate Housewives' James Denton), a rock star who fell of his peak and hit every ledge on the way down. Finally, the record producer is Kevin Pollak, in a roll that is nowhere near as daring or as shocking as it could be. If all that happened to Grace in her stint as a popular recording artist was in this film, I think many artists and musicians would consider her lucky.
But Grace Unplugged doesn't aspire to be graphic or deeply-rooted in blunt, frightening honesty. It aspires to be a religious parable and to tell the story of an adolescent who got a bit too big for her britches and abandoned the word of God in favor of a more fast-moving life as an artist. For one, the film's first misstep is one that common Christian films make and that's showing the world who does not believe in God, or at least openly express their love for God, in a negative, demeaning light that portrays them as beings that lack ethical decision-making. The film seems to think that because someone holds The Bible and the idea of God close to them, and expresses it openly and frequently, they are already good-hearted and intelligent people, while those who either silently-express themselves or don't have a religious view at all are terrible people we shouldn't trust.
That view in itself is almost a candidate for religious propaganda and it's unfortunate that writers Brad J. Silverman and Brandon Rice appear to think that way. It seems that a growing principle of Christian cinema is to show the secular world as godless degenerates incapable of making the right decision or an inferior one when, in 2014 America, we should be shying away from that and dismantling that idea. But I digress; Grace Unplugged, however, is buoyed by a surprisingly entertaining story and a great central performance by Michalka to at least be deemed worth-watching in some aspects. Even though Denton and Pollak frequently turn up on screen, this is Michalka's show in its entirety, and whether you call it another performance or an attempt to revitalize a career that was slumping, it's a performance that will be one of the most remembered in her filmography for years to come.
The Grace character, however, is a different story. She isn't your atypical adolescent, with aspirations to express herself through music and the limitless wonders of creative expression, but it's her surly attitude becomes a bit much. She often seems ungrateful for what she has been handed, disobeying her parents and then blaming them for getting upset, and often picking fights with her father just to show that she's not a little kid anymore. Then there's the fact that the film feels to gloss over certain incidents in her popularity and zip-by, showing many tours and meetings in montage, not giving us the real idea, or at least the film's, of what actually goes on behind these closed-door board meetings.
Long story short, Grace Unplugged is far from a perfect film, especially showing when it tries its hand at showing emotion which comes off as nothing but manipulative. But there's real talent at hand with Michalka's performance, which shows vulnerability in a realistic way. Then there's the fact that watching someone go from humble beginnings to a celebrity creating some sizable shockwaves domestically is quite entertaining to watch unfold, solely for the reason of character intimacy. If there were ever a film to see for the reason that it has a number of considerable issues but still succeeds in strong, key areas, Grace Unplugged is it.
Starring: Aly Michalka, James Denton, and Kevin Pollak. Directed by: Brad J. Silverman.
2 of 7 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this