Gracie’s Choice


Rating 2¼

Directed by Peter Werner

Written by Joyce Eliason, based on a Reader’s Digest article written by Rena Dictor Le Blanc

Starring Kristen Bell (Gracie Thompson), Anne Heche (Rowena Lawson), Diane Ladd (Louela Lawson), Kristin Fairlie (Rose Carlton), Brian Atkins (Ryan Walker), David Gibson McLean (Jonny Blicker), Jack Armstrong (Robbie Locascio), Shedrack Anderson III (Tommy) and Sandra Caldwell (Mrs Thurston)

17-year-old Gracie Thompson lives with her self-destructive mother Rowena Lawson, her younger half-sister Rose and her younger half-brothers Brian, Jonny and Robbie. Each one has a different father, all of them absent. Rowena drinks, uses drugs, repeatedly hooks up with deadbeat boyfriends and the family are constantly moving from place to place, on the run from landlords, debt collectors and the police. When Rowena is caught and sent to jail, the children end up in juvenile facilities until they are rescued by their grandmother Louela. However, after Rose gets pregnant and moves in with the father, seemingly starting out down the same path as her mother, and Rowena turns up again, Gracie takes matters into her own hands and fights to be allowed to legally adopt her three half-brothers.


‘Gracie’s Choice’ is a television movie made for the Lifetime Television channel and adheres closely to the tried and tested Lifetime formula. The story is based on an article that first appeared in Reader’s Digest in 2000 and told the story of a teenager called Amy who was given custody of three younger brothers. Although the story is initially presented with some small degree of authenticity, albeit decidedly sanitised, it does become increasingly saccharine and less believable, and as such less rewarding, even if it is based on true events.

Kristen Bell is a very competent actress, but I am not altogether convinced that her portrayal here or the character she plays is entirely successful. On occasions it is too easy to forget the hell that Gracie’s life has been up to now. On the other hand, Anne Heche is very good a portraying “crazy” and her character Rowena is the mother from hell, entirely self-absorbed and hell bent on self-destruction, although she does not necessarily deliberately set out to hurt her children. She is simply woefully and dangerously unfit to be responsible for them. Heche, who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance, claimed to have based it on her own experiences growing up.

Brian Atkins, in the role of Brian, the oldest of the three brothers, is quite effective in portraying Brian’s barely repressed anger. He suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, as do the two younger brothers.

The film means well and does have merit. It is reasonably effective, up to a point. However, to be entirely successful and satisfactory it really needed to be less sanitised than this, although it is conforming to the Lifetime brand. All in all, though, this is a decent and decently acted made-for-television true story and its potential audience will already know what to expect.

Review posted 9 July 2009


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