Dir. Davis Guggenheim. 2007. PG-13. 95mins. Carly Schroeder, Dermot Mulroney, Andrew Shue, Elisabeth Shue, Jesse Lee Soffer.
Should it matter that an inspirational but fictionalized sports film is inspired by a true story? Back in the late 1970s, Elizabeth Shue had to fight for the right to play on her high school’s all-male soccer team. She was a Title IX pioneer, arguing that the school couldn’t claim field hockey and badminton as adequate substitutes. Gracie takes the facts of the Shue family history and makes a sports film of a familiar type. It rises above the pack because of Schroeder’s strong performance and the sharply observed details.
Gracie (Schroeder) is the only daughter in an intensely athletic family where soccer is the religion. When family golden boy Johnny (Soffer) is killed in a car accident, the family starts to unravel. After a little rebellious behavior, Gracie deals with her grief by getting her dad (Mulroney) to teach her soccer so she can play on Johnny’s old team. The coach and the school board want none of it, and the players try a little hazing to discourage her, but Gracie is indomitable.
The filmmakers understand the way jock families work (former soccer player Andrew Shue shares a story credit with Guggenheim, Elizabeth Shue’s husband). That sense of ambience combined with Schroeder’s strong screen presence overcomes even the predictable use of ’70s songs and the cookie-cutter plotting. If we had a tween daughter, we’d take her to see this. Uplift has its uses. (Opens Fri; Click here for showtimes.)—Hank Sartin