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Grace Unplugged (2013)



Films based on Christian literature can fall into one of two categories they’re either a new favorite or a disappointment (usually thanks to the production as a whole) in my appraisal. After hearing good reports about this movie, I actually took the risk, and picked up a copy of its combo pack instead of renting it.  

Grace Trey (AJ Michalka) has a big voice. All her life, she has been raised in a church where, by her now-retired rocker father’s side, she leads the weekly worship portion of the service. Only trouble is, now she’s eighteen, the two of them clash over how the songs should be arranged. Grace has her own contemporary vision for them and her father Johnny Trey (James Denton) wants them sang only as traditional praise songs. This drives a wedge between the two. When her father’s former manager returns, making him an offer to relive his glory days by touring again, Grace desperately uses this attempt to show her individuality and seizes a chance to get the attention of her father’s former manager by sending him a demo of a cover she records. 
 
That cover impresses Frank (Kevin Pollock) and one phone call later, Grace is on a plane to L.A. to record the track with a bright future and deals to record another single. What she didn’t realize was the flurry she would stir in the media. Grace is no longer a small town nobody, now she has a spotlight with her name on it, and the fame – and constant attention – that comes with it is nothing like she expected.

I’ve been familiar with AJ Michalka’s (and her sister) work since her days as a “Disney kid” and the various records or television films that came with that insignia. Now, “all grown up” with a new sound in her musical career and film roles that are far edgier, this was the first film I’ve seen AJ in since the departure from her clean girl image. Fortunately, even though Grace Unplugged adopts a more grown up persona, it comes without crossing lines that it cannot return from. Original or not, I loved this story. It cannot really be described in one word because there is a lot of “growing up” done in this film, in such a short period of time. The progression of it happens in an organic way made it seem as if it wasn’t being “forced” or the characters’ lives being toyed with for the sake of a script – there is just that something special about this story that is hard to pin down because it’s got a light all its own that may be too “preachy” for some, however it hit all the right notes in my opinion.  

I’m not sure how many people will easily relate to this, but I think the story has a great deal of truth in it. It’s hard to try and break into a secularly-driven, competitive world, and retain more than a supporting role in it. Grace caused a splash in the music industry and was popular for those infamous 15 minutes, but with a hundred other girls just like her with the same dream, her aspiration is more of a burden than anything she ever thought it would be. Where other similar plots have failed, this story was very character-driven in its depiction of the relationships between all of the characters though primarily, at its heart, this is a story about a father and daughter. That is where it will “hit home” for many of us because no matter what kind of relationship we have with our fathers, our teenage self probably felt “stifled” by parents at some point or another, which is what Grace thought she broke free of. Right or wrong, seeing how the rift was healed between them was beautiful. It wasn’t so much because of a decision made for Grace as it was a choice made by her that made the ending and journey the sweetest part of the script. 

For anyone who enjoys Christian films (and I know there are many of us out there who do) that don’t fall into the same traps and are instead well produced – and acted (everyone really puts out a stellar performance), this is a movie for you to look into. It’s a lovely reminder of all that we can achieve or learn if we stay true to ourselves, and in today’s world, that is sometimes a hard albeit valuable lesson to learn. Plus, this has – for its script, the cutest ending that caps off the entire experience beautifully.  

(Content: there are some minor innuendoes when a girl overhears her boyfriend planning to get her into bed later that night [devastated, she leaves him behind]. There is the disrespect and back talking to parents when Grace makes plans to leave. The film is rated PG.)
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Rissi
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  1. Replies
    1. Me too, Juju! It was SO sweet - and it really surprised me because of how good it was. :)

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  2. Nice review! I knew about this one for some time, back before it was in theaters. When the library got it I knew I wanted to see it. I rented it, watched it, and was pleased with it. And I agree, the ending was so cute! :-D I I'm not opposed to Christian films which have acting that isn't up to Hollywood standards- just as long as it has a good message and story- but I agree that the acting in this one was pretty good.

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    1. Thanks for reading. I'm glad we're in agreement about this one - it was really a nice story and that's part of the reason I loved it. :)

      I don't disagree with you, Grace; if the story is a good payoff, that's what counts, but I've seen some films with horrible acting (or even bad production) and when it's so bad, right or wrong, it seems to affect the whole picture. No matter what, Grace Unplugged is one of the good ones, and it'll be a film to revisit. :)

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  3. I'm generally not a fan of so-called Christian films because of their knack for poor writing and acting, but this one surprised me. :)

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    1. Same here, Jennifer! This one certainly surprised me and because of that, it's one that has become a favorite. So sweet and happy and really good! :)

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  4. I was so worried that this would be another Christian film that just didn't do it for me... Thankfully, I was wrong!! I loved this one too, Rissi. AJ played her part really well. I'm sure she experienced at least some of Grace's feelings in her personal rise to fame. Great review!

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    1. *high five* Same here, Rosie! I was cautiously optimistic going into it, and my entire family loved it. I'm so glad because often Christian films don't reach their potential. This one did. AJ did a lovely job, and I agree; she probably could pour some of her own emotions into this role because of her fame.

      Thanks for reading! :)

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  5. I haven't watched a good Christian film in a while, I will have to check this out
    Missie @ A Flurry of Ponderings

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    1. Indeed! Do, look into it, Missie. It's really quite good. :)

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  6. I haven't seen this one but now I'll be looking for it! Both the movie ad the book. :) Loved getting to read your thoughts about it.

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    1. Cool. Hope you enjoy both, Joanne. I didn't read the book, though the film is really sweet and has some important things to so. :)

      Thanks for dropping by. :)

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  7. I plan on watching this movie. It looks like a great one! :)

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    1. It is really good, Melanie! Hope you like it if/when you see it. :)

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  8. I remember hearing about this when it came out! It sounds really cute, and I can definitely relate. Though I certainly never pursued music professionally, when I'm home from school (and in high school), I sing with my dad in the praise band at my church. It hits home! I will definitely have to find a copy of this and check it out, especially since you liked it so much! :)

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    1. That's really cool, Rachel - I didn't know that about you, and yes, you would be able to relate to this story. It's done very well whereas some Christian films just don't "click" and I'm glad it seemed to get a wider release than most. If/when you see it, let my know what you think. :)

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  9. I'm glad you enjoyed this one, Rissi! I remember seeing the book in my local bookstore and I wanted to see the movie but later forgot about it. This sounds really sweet and I'm glad to hear this Christian film lived up to its potential. I will definitely make sure to check it out!

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    1. I did indeed, Jillian... and I hope if you ever see it, you enjoy.

      It's one of the few Christian films that actually seemed to "work" well enough. Good as the messages always are, and I know the filmmakers heart is in the right place, sometimes due to limited budgets or what-have-you, a small movie just doesn't live up to its potential. This one seemed to be above that, and because of that - and its sweet father/daughter relationship, I was sold. :)

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  10. How did I miss this one?! I have been curious about this movie for a while, wondering if I should give it a shot since some Christan films can be...strange, for lack of a better word.

    Glad to see you liked it! I will definitely check this one out. Thanks for the great review! :)

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    1. You said it right, Bekah. Some Christian films are definitely strange. They just don't have the same kind of quality as blockbusters. This one is sort of Hallmark-like in its style.

      Hope you enjoy it as well if/when you see it. :)

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