The rules of the game are about to change.
Inspired by one family’s real drama, this soccer story set in 1978 features a teenage girl fighting for a chance to play competitive soccer.
As art often imitates life, the film is based on true events from the Shue family (producer and co-star Andrew Shue, and Academy Award-nominated actress Elisabeth Shue). Elisabeth, who plays the film’s mom, wanted to be the first girl in her New Jersey town (back in the day) to play soccer on an all boys’ high school team.
Seventeen-year old Carly Schroeder, who you might recognize from “Lizzie McGuire”, or “Port Charles”, stars as Gracie Bowen, the only girl in a family of three brothers. Their family life revolves almost entirely around soccer: her father (Dermot Mulroney) and brothers are obsessed with the sport, practicing in the backyard’s makeshift goal every day from morning until night. Tragedy unexpectedly strikes when Gracie’s older brother Johnny, star of the high school varsity soccer team, is killed in a car accident.
Struggling with grief over her family’s loss, Gracie decides to fill the void by petitioning the school board to allow her to play on the boy’s high school varsity soccer team in Johnny’s place. Her father, a former soccer star himself, tries to prove to Gracie that she is not tough enough or talented enough to play with boys.
Undeterred, Gracie finds reserves of strength she never knew existed, and persists in changing everyone’s beliefs in what she is capable of, including her own. Gracie not only forces her father to wake up from his grief and see her as the beautiful and strong person that she has always been but she also brings her family together in the face of their tragedy.
The Indiana-born Schroeder is a natural who demonstrates just the right blend of beauty and power (truly a Pretty Tough girl). She can kick the ball farther, run faster, and work harder than the boys all with nary a flick of her long blonde hair. Though the film is a sometimes formulaic, feel-good sports movie, Schroeder displays a range of appropriate emotions which makes the film eminently watchable. She embodies Gracie, a real character who flunks history, fights with her best friend, experiments with cigarettes and bad boys, all while chasing her dream of playing competitive soccer.
After Johnny dies, the story follows a predicable string of events…the school board has to decide whether Title IX requires New Jersey to allow girls to play soccer with boys, P.E. administrators are challenged with whether girls should have equal time in the weight room, and Gracie is faced with a pivotal free kick against the rival school in sudden-death overtime.
Directed by Academy Award-winning director Davis Guggenheim (“An Inconvenient Truth”), who is Elizabeth Shue’s real-life husband, this strong family values film at times resembles a Hallmark special (in a good way). Some of the soccer players look like they’d be more at home on a MLS pitch than a high school soccer game but for the most part, the film rings true on all levels.
Featuring a 1970s soundtrack including songs from Boston, Blondie, Aretha Franklin, and Bruce Springsteen along with other great period details (hard to believe their were no cell phones back then) it’s a great time capsule as well a family drama.
The Official Gracie Site