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Getting Grace Review

March 31, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Getting Grace
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Getting Grace Review  

Getting Grace Review

Daniel Roebuck– Bill Jankowski
Madelyn Dundon– Grace
Marsha Dietlein– Venus
Dana Ashbrook– Ron
Duane Whitaker– Reverend Osburn
Alexa Mcfillin– Audrey
Diane Wagner– Mary
Jacob Williams– Doug

Directed by Daniel Roebuck
Screenplay by Jeff Lewis and Daniel Roebuck

Distributed by Hannover House

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and some suggestive material
Runtime– 112 minutes
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Getting Grace, directed, co-written, and starring Daniel Roebuck, is a superb, sweet, dark edged family comedy about life and death. You don’t see too many successful dark edged family comedies these days, as finding the right balance between fun and somberness can be difficult, even for veteran skilled directors. Getting Grace is Roebuck’s feature film debut as a director, and while the movie has some pacing issues, Roebuck finds that right balance and creates a movie experience that will both make you smile and stick with you days later.

Roebuck is Bill Jankowski, a sort of sad sack funeral director who doesn’t seem to enjoy life all that. He’s good at his job, sure, but outside of that Bill doesn’t seem to have much going for him. One day, he meets Grace (Madelyn Dundon), a spunky teen dying from cancer who wants to know all about the funeral process. And when I say the funeral process, I mean she wants to know what happens before the funeral, during the funeral, and after the funeral. Bill isn’t too keen on explaining any of this stuff to her, since she isn’t a customer and Bill isn’t good with dealing with people outside of the usual funeral setting. Bill wants her to leave. Grace won’t leave, though. Grace wants to know about the process. Grace also wants to know who Bill is and why he is the way he is. Finding this stuff out is almost like Grace’s final project in life.

Now, outside of Grace, no one wants this Bill thing to be her final anything. Grace’s mother Venus (Marsha Dietlein) wants her to continue her chemo and radiation treatments, to continue fighting until the very end. The people at the cancer support group, including Reverend Osburn (Duane Whitaker), would rather she stick around for a while longer since she’s so good with the other cancer kids in the group (Grace is sort of the ringleader of the group). And Ron (Dana Ashbrook), a paranormal writer and, I guess, self-help guru (I’m still not entirely sure who Ron is in this movie), would much rather Grace live so she can try to bend spoons or something. Grace has a lot of fans.

So Grace tries to set her mother Venus with Bill. It takes a while for Bill to figure out what Grace is up to, but he eventually figures it out. It then takes a little while longer for Bill to warm up to the idea. While all of that is going on, Grace tries to help fellow cancer kid Audrey (Alexa Mcfillin) get what she wants for her funeral. Bill might be able to help her out, but Audrey’s mother wants Grace to leave her daughter alone. Audrey’s mother wants Audrey to keep fighting, even if there isn’t much hope. And while all of that is going on, Grace is having a fling of her own with a fellow caner kid named Doug (Jacob Williams), a sweet relationship that could have been its own movie.

Getting Grace moves at a leisurely pace. It doesn’t really waste time, but it definitely takes its time. I don’t mind that leisurely pace as its fun spending time with all of these characters, but I do question why this movie has to be almost two hours long. I’m not sure the story really needs that much time to get to where it’s going. At the same time, I don’t know what, specifically, should or could be cut. Maybe some of the scenes could be trimmed? Losing five minutes would make Getting Grace even more watchable,

The dark edge that Roebuck and Jeff Lewis create is something you don’t see all that often in the inspirational family movie genre. The story doesn’t shy away from the fact that people die, cancer is awful, and that there’s a room in the back of the funeral parlor where dead bodies are prepared for funerals. Kids also die, too, which is hard enough to accept in real life, but in a movie it seems even harder to accept. Movies are supposed to have happy endings. Kids aren’t supposed to die. And yet, in Getting Grace, they do. It isn’t off putting, though. It’s damn near life affirming. That’s where Getting Grace derives its power. That, and Madelyn Dundon’s performance.

Dundon is terrific as Grace. She’s funny, she’s charismatic, and she has easy chemistry with damn near everyone in the movie. Her “doing a fake British accent” thing gets annoying after around the fourth time she does it, but then you don’t hate her for it. It’s part of who she is. You can’t help but root for her.

And Roebuck is, as usual, superb as Bill. He knows how to react to both the goofy stuff Grace does (like the scene where she, along with the other cancer kids from the support group, take over an old man’s funeral and make it a celebration instead of a morose affair) and the serious drama stuff (like when he finds out that Grace’s mother Venus has personal demons of her own that she doesn’t know how to deal with) and make you keep watching him. And pay close attention to the scene where Bill explains via flashback why he stays away from alcohol. It’s heartbreaking to say the least. Great stuff.

The rest of the cast does a fine job. Newcomer Alexa Mcfillin as Audrey is excellent in her first movie role. And Duane Whitaker is slyly funny as Reverend Osburn. The rest of the kids are great. And Diane Wagner as Bill’s sister Mary provides a fine opposite look at the Jankowski family. Mary is more outgoing than Bill, and she’s a funeral director, too.

Am I the only one who thinks the sign outside of the Jankowski Funeral Home that notes there’s an “On-Site Crematory” is hilarious?

I loved Getting Grace. I wish it was faster, but it’s well-made nonetheless Roebuck and company should be commended for making a family comedy that will stick with you. If you’re a family movie fan, be sure to check it out if it’s playing at a movie theatre near you, or when it hits home video. You won’t regret it.

See Getting Grace. See it, see it, see it.

So what do we have here?

Dead bodies: 3

Explosions: Sort of one.

Nudity?: None.

Doobage: A car conversation, yard raking, a weird “bending spoons” commercial, wig removal, exhaustion, coffins opening again and again, a coffin selling speech, casket picking, an off screen fire, pill taking, MRI hooey, hospital support group hooey, a kid gets locked inside a casket by accident, reluctant head patting, cookies on a dead body, multiple legal threats, a funny bit where someone passes out then wakes up on an autopsy table, talk of the first nuclear casket, praying, lots of drinking, straw drawing, napkin throwing, a messed up clown, more leaf raking, mortician jokes, a drunken stupor, multiple montages, a flashback, a thought exercise about a painting, a painted casket, a big caper involving moving a dead body, oxygen removal, tea making, a drawer full of bent spoons, and a sad yet appropriate ending.

Kim Richards?: Yes.

Gratuitous: Daniel Roebuck, a funeral home that has an on-site crematory, “embrace life” classes, “It’s not a coffin, it’s a casket,” a funny little kid who wants a quarter, Daniel Roebuck hating chili cheese dogs, a hospital chaplain, Daniel Roebuck vacuuming the rug, bullshit about spoon bending, Daniel Roebuck screaming about boogers, attempting to snap a rake in half, Daniel Roebuck talking about a woman’s neck, a model train set date, a painted casket, and a drawer full of bent spoons.

Best lines: “Oh, no, we’re starting with Mozart,” “How can anyone do that for a living?,” “Do you have any idea how much that cost?,” “Hey, dig that. Destiny,” “Dude. Jesus! No, but I’ll give you two more guesses,” “I don’t want to talk about this painting anymore,” “Does this coffin make me look fat,” “Can I ride in the hearse? Wait your turn,” “So, when this thing gets the best of me you’ll hook me up?,” “The pills are not gonna cut it anymore,” “Have you ever seen a real miracle?,” “I do believe you’re here for more than an autograph,” “You have a business card?,” “You’re the one on borrowed time,” “I believe I peed my pants,” “You know, she’s probably out of oxygen by now,” “In the dark, anything can be real,” “Spit to spit, tit to tit,” “What are you doing? I’m customizing my casket,” “Okay, I gotta go empty my colostomy bag before it pops,” “I think this guy needs a new job,” “A hole to hell?,” “Do you really believe this nonsense?,” “Now, you communicate with the dead?,” “How do you top finding hell?,” “I’m not good with people,” “I think some people get Grace, and some never will,” “This is why people get divorced,” “If you ride in the chair you die in the chair,” “This is why I don’t like clowns,” “Great shot, Kobe,” “How can you eat that?,” “What’s courting?,” “So, how long does this courting shit take?,” “What do I do when you’re gone?,” “You are retarded,” “Gracie, you are such a dork,” “I think I’m gonna go,” and “The sun is rising.”

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
Getting Grace is a great, dark edged family comedy from Daniel Roebuck. It’s chock full of heart and emotion. It plays a little too long, but it will make you smile, which is what a family comedy should do. Check it out if it’s playing at a theatre near you, or when it hits home video. If you’re a fan of family comedies you won’t regret it.

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Getting Grace, Bryan Kristopowitz