Skip to content
Catholic Online Logo

By Nick Toper

2/7/2014 (1 year ago)

Catholic Online (

The words "based on a true story" won't appear anywhere in the marketing materials for GRACE UNPLUGGED - but many in the film's cast and crew found something from their personal lives to identify with in the story of a teenage girl yearning to break free from what she sees as the limitations of her family and faith and achieve her dreams of pop music stardom.

Grace Unplugged is based on many true stories.

Grace Unplugged is based on many true stories.


By Nick Toper

Catholic Online (

2/7/2014 (1 year ago)

Published in Movies

Keywords: Grace unplugged, movies, christian, entertainment, premier

GRACE UNPLUGGED comes to Digital HD and Video on Demand on Jan. 28 and debuts on Blu-ray Combo Pack and DVD on Feb. 11.

Grace Unplugged comes out on DVD and Blu Ray on Feb. 11.

Grace Unplugged comes out on DVD and Blu Ray on Feb. 11.

For AJ Michalka, who plays the title character, Grace Trey, the real-life similarities come from the experiences she and her sister, Aly, have had as they've transitioned their careers from pre-teen stars in the Disney stable to young adults now recording as 78Violet.

"I think what Grace is going through here is her turning point - and as Aly & AJ my sister and I had a turning point, too," Michalka says. "We've gotten older, and we're making our music match. So I can identify with that part of Grace. I think every girl can identify with the idea of wanting to be your own person but wanting to please the people around you at the same time. "

Of course, Grace's journey is not purely autobiographical for Michalka. One of the key issues Grace must face in the film is whether the Christian faith she was raised in will continue to be the guiding force in her life, even as she chases success in Hollywood. There's never been a doubt on that score for Michalka.

"As I've gotten older, I've found the only way to keep my priorities right is to get more into God's Word," she says. "You've got to be constantly upping the 'God food' in your life."

Russ Rice, one of the film's producers, has a little more firsthand experience with the kind of struggles Grace has with her faith. The idea for GRACE UNPLUGGED came, in part, from Rice's estrangement from one of his children after she decided not to embrace the faith she was raised on into adulthood.
Grace Unplugged is a feel-good movie you can see without feeling preached at.

Grace Unplugged is a feel-good movie you can see without feeling preached at.

"My daughter ran away six or seven years ago. She doesn't want to talk to us," Rice says. "She is living apart from her faith, and my prayer is that somehow, somewhere, she might see this movie, receive a jolt and come back to Christ."

Imbuing GRACE UNPLUGGED with such a jolt was the responsibility of Rice's longtime friend, Brad J. Silverman, who wrote and directed the movie. Silverman says as he watched Rice and his family grapple with the crisis of their daughter's running away he was struck by their "tremendous sincerity of heart."

"In that sincere state of heart I saw the trial Russ and his wife were going through," Silverman remembers. "This is a big issue in churches today - kids growing up and struggling with making their faith their own. That's the journey Grace goes on."

Of critical importance to all concerned was that Grace's journey not be trite or hackneyed - that the issues she is shown struggling with aren't presented in either a glib or heavy-handed way. She goes through a crisis of faith and conflict with her parents, yes, but she is not depicted as winding up "down and out" the moment she sets foot in Los Angeles after leaving her Alabama home and church where she sings in the worship band led by her Dad.

"I didn't want to make a movie about 'Alabama Christian music good,' 'Hollywood pop music bad,' " Silverman stresses. "This is a coming-of-age story of a girl who has to wrestle with her heart, not a story on the evils of Hollywood."
That distinction was important to Michalka, who described GRACE UNPLUGGED as "a feel-good movie you can go see without being preached at."

"This girl has a dream, and she goes about it in a certain way. And, in the end, she learns what she gets wrong."
Film veteran Kevin Pollak, who co-stars as Frank "Mossy" Mostin," the music agent who guides Grace's career after she leaves home, also drew on some personal experience in bringing his character to life. Mossy, he notes, is based on a few of the people who have guided him over his 25-year career as an actor and comedian.

"I've had a few of these people in my life," he says, "and it's hard to figure out which ones to trust and which ones not to. Ultimately you get burned a couple of times and you learn. You always learn more from failure than from success."

One thing that was not hard for Pollak to figure out was whether he should sign on to GRACE UNPLUGGED. He was drawn by the film's refusal to traffic in cheap clichés by making Mossy a stereotypically seedy, and untrustworthy, agent.

"It would be typical, if not expected, for Mossy to be a villain," Pollak says. "But by making him a good guy who sees talent in Grace and not a devil, it makes her character smarter and her journey more profound. And that makes a greater emotional connection to the story."

Key to the film's power, he adds, is how "it depicts how Grace learns not only how to live the dreams her talent allows her pursue, but how she ultimately does it in a way that leads to reconciliation with her father, her God, and her family. It is wildly moving."

The biggest key, though, to giving Grace's journey meaning is how her conflict with her dad plays out. James Denton, who stars as one-hit-wonder-turned-worship-leader Johnny Trey, called it "tricky" to get the relationship just right. (Denton's based-on-a-true-story connection to the film: One of his first jobs out of college was in his Baptist church's praise band.)

"We couldn't afford for the audience to take sides," he says. "We wanted people to pull for Johnny a little, and to pull for Grace a little. She had to be just bratty enough for you to see why Johnny's rules would force her out of the house, and Johnny has to overreact to things just enough to keep Grace likable."

As Michalka simply puts it: "These are two people who love each other but don't always understand each other. They just can't seem to communicate."

The Johnny-Grace dynamic, and how it is resolved, is at the heart of what the filmmakers hoped to communicate to audiences.

"The stories of Dad and Grace go hand-in-hand," Silverman notes. "The theme for Dad is, sometimes the best we can do for our kids is to let go and let God take care of them."

As for the kids, producer Rice says he hopes the movie leads them to "examine themselves and their faith."
"Do they own their faith? Do they rent their faith? Or do they borrow it from their parents? Those are the questions Grace has to answer, and I hope the audience answers them, too."

In the end, then, the ultimate "true story" the cast and crew of GRACE UNPLUGGED is most concerned with isn't about them - it's about those who see the movie.

For Michalka, what the movie spotlights is the importance of family and faith.

"Family matters. That's what Grace figures out," she says. "Family are the only people who will tell you when you're getting off the tracks a little. Surround yourself with people who love the Lord, love themselves and love you, and you can't really fail."

Silverman hopes the impact on families goes beyond what they see on screen.

"I'm hoping we prompt a lot of dialogue between families, that this movie is a conversation starter," Silverman says. "At the end of the day, I don't miss the fact that this is entertainment - and I think we've made a very entertaining movie. But when the movie is over, and the audience reflects on what they've seen, I want Christians to say, 'Wow. I love God.' "


Pope Francis: end world hunger through 'Prayer and Action'

Copywriter 2015 - Distributed by THE NEWS CONSORTIUM

Pope Francis Prayer Intentions for October 2015
That human trafficking, the modern form of slavery, may be eradicated.
Evangelization: That with a missionary spirit the Christian communities of Asia may announce the Gospel to those who are still awaiting it.


More Movies

New movie version of Peter 'Pan,' is panned, and drops like a stone with miserable opening Watch

Image of


It's almost too easy to say - but "Pan," the new movie version of Peter Pan starring Hugh Jackman was in fact, panned. Bad reviews and a miserable opening weekend - with $15.5 million for a film that cost more than $150 million to make, "Pan" chalks up another ... continue reading

Concluding chapter in 'Hunger Games' series - 'Mockingjay - Part 2' roaring into theaters Watch

Image of Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence, turns her efforts into overthrowing the oppressive government in


The concluding chapter in the "Hunger Games" sci-fi film series, "Mockingjay - Part 2" roars into theaters on November 30. Widely and wildly popular, the dystopian fantasy series is based upon a series of books by Suzanne Collins. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic ... continue reading

Serbian film 'Enclave' peeks into the lives of persecuted Christians living in Kosovo under Muslim rule Watch

Image of


Serbian filmmaker, Goran Radovanovic, provides a look into Christianity in Muslim-majority Kosovo through the film Enclave, which he wrote and directed. LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Radovanovic wrote and directed Enclave to tell the world about the suffering the ... continue reading

James Bond star Daniel Craig says he's into it for the money Watch

Image of Actor Daniel Craig says that while a dream role for many, the part of James Bond is an awful lot of hard work.


In a candid interview shocking in its forthrightness, actor Daniel Craig, who just finished playing the iconic superspy James Bond in "Spectre," was asked if he was going to play Bond immediately afterwards. "If I did another Bond movie, it would only be for ... continue reading

Director Steven Spielberg returns with Cold War drama 'Bridge of Spies' Watch

Image of Tom Hanks plays lawyer James B. Donovan into another of his patented Everyman characters. Hanks is careful not to come off as too virtuous by infusing scenes with dry humor.

By Greg Goodsell (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

Director Steven Spielberg returns to the screen with "Bridge of Spies," an incisive look into Cold War-era America. His first feature film since "Lincoln," Spielberg focuses on the real-life trade off a Soviet Spy in exchange for an American service man downed ... continue reading

Masses of moviegoers move to see 'The Martian,' making it number one at box office Watch

Image of

By Greg Goodsell (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

"The Martian," a space opera about astronaut Matt Damon being stranded on the Red Planet, is doing astronomical business at the nation's box offices. In the manner of "Gravity" in 2013, an outer space suspense yarn that took moviegoers by storm, many analysts ... continue reading

Braveheart screenwriter contributes success to God Watch

Image of Randall Wallace.


Randall Wallace, known for his films Braveheart, Heaven is For Real, Pearl Harbor and The Man in the Iron Mask, said he was unsuccessful in life until he asked God to help him.After he asked God for guidance, Wallace went from jobless to becoming one of Hollywood's ... continue reading

Horrific notorious abortion doctor, Kermit Gosnell, featured in documentary Watch

Image of Kermit Gosnell.


A new documentary has been created centered around abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, titled 3801 Lancaster: American Tragedy. The trailer is set to be released Monday night. MUNTINLUPA, PHILIPPINES (Catholic Online) - The feature-length documentary has been in production ... continue reading

Filmmaker attempts to raise awareness of Christian persecution in the Middle East Watch

Image of 'Return to the Hiding Place' brings awareness of Christian persecution in the Middle East.


Film writer and director Peter Spencer has announced his attempt to raise awareness about the critical situation of Christians being persecuted in the Middle East through his film Return to the Hiding Place. It is about a group of people who fight to save the lives of ... continue reading

Faith-based film 'War Room' out grosses secular films such as 'No Escape' and 'We Are Your friends' Watch

Image of It pays to be frugal when producing films, as

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)

A quiet domestic drama about a family who turns to prayer -- "War Room" opened at theaters nationwide this past weekend. "War Room" spoke to an unspoken need among moviegoers, as its box office receipts far overtook the debuting action drama "No Escape" and the ... continue reading

All Movies News


Newsletter Sign Up icon

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers

Subscribe to Catholic OnlineYouTube Channel

Daily Readings

Reading 1, Romans 1:16-25
16 For I see no reason to be ashamed of the gospel; ... Read More

Psalm, Psalms 19:2-3, 4-5
2 day discourses of it to day, night to night hands ... Read More

Gospel, Luke 11:37-41
37 He had just finished speaking when a Pharisee ... Read More

Saint of the Day

Saint of the Day for October 13th, 2015 Image

St. Edward the Confessor
October 13: Edward the Confessor was the son of King Ethelred III and his ... Read More