10/6/15

Girl of the Year 2015 movie: Grace Stirs up Success

Released on DVD in July 2012

Plot

Grace and her friends Maddy and Ella plan to enter a bike race at the end of the summer and want new bikes for it (understandably; Grace's is obviously not right for racing). Grace's parents say she needs to raise the money for it herself, so she decides to start a baking business with her friends, just as soon as summer vacation starts. She gets permission from her grandparents to use their bakery, where she often helps out. Their bakery is getting rundown, but the food is still delicious.

The girls do brisk business selling fancy cupcakes at little league games and the like. Grace is excited, sure they'll be able to afford new bikes soon. But then her mom announces that she and Grace will be spending several weeks in Paris to help Grace's aunt, who is on bedrest in her last weeks of pregnancy, and her family. While Paris does sound exciting, Grace is stunned by this out-of-left-field news. Maddy and Ella are excited for Grace, and say that since baking doesn't come so naturally to them, they'll find other ways to raise money. Grace puts her foot in her mouth, asking how they'll manage without her to organize things. Maddy takes offense at essentially being called disorganized and incapable of planning things, but Ella smooths things over.

Soon after, Grace and her mom arrive in Paris. Grace is at little put-off by what she thinks is her cousin Sylvie's rudeness, but it's really just Sylvia feeling shy and sort of put-out by having to share her space when she's still adjusting to the idea of her step-mother having a baby.

Grace helps at her aunt and uncle's bakery, but it's very different from helping at grandparents'. French pastries have exacting requirements, and even Grace's rigid "THE RECIPE MUST BE FOLLOWED EXACTLY" mantra doesn't cut it. Clearly unused to being told no, Grace soon feels lost in the kitchen, something she's never experience before, and her awkwardness leads to clumsiness. After talking with her mom, Grace swallows her pride and accepts that she can't just jump to being in charge in someone else's bakery, and lets people show her the ropes. She settles in better when she's not assuming the best way to help, and learns that it's okay to improvise with recipes (even though she knew that in the book already...). She also befriends a stray French bulldog, which she calls Bonbon.

During a visit to the Eiffel Tower, Aunt Sophia goes into labor. She's able to get to the hospital before her baby's born. The experience gives Grace and Sylvie a chance to bond, although Sylvie is now unsure how she fits into her family. She was used to it being just her and her father after the death of her mother, and now her father has remarried and has a new baby...it's a lot to take in. But becoming friends with Grace helps Sylvie.

Grace gets it into her head that she can help her uncle by convincing the owner of a fancy hotel (who he's been trying to meet with) to try some pastries from the bakery--surely he'll want the food for his hotel if he just tries it. A series of "wacky" hijinks follows, culminating in Bonbon delivering some macarons. They impress the owner enough that Grace's uncle is hired to cater the desserts for the hotel's Bastille Day celebration. The owner is so impressed with the catering that Grace's uncle is given a contract to supply pastries to the hotel on a regular basis.

Upon returning home, Grace finds things have changed in her short time away. When she too forcefully tries to "help" Maddy and Ella with their dog-washing, they end up insulted that she's trying to take over. And her grandparents' bakery is closing. She has to try to find a way to save it. She apologizes to Maddy and Ella, who admit they took offense too quickly, and they work together to modernize the bakery. Business picks up significantly, but with much of the baking equipment worn out, it's not quite enough.

Then Grace finds out that her grandmother entered her in the Master Chef Junior baking competition, and she's been accepted as one of about a dozen contestants. If she wins, she'll get a hundred thousand dollars, surely enough to put the bakery back in the black. She makes a fancy tart to earn her a spot in the finals, where the remaining bakers have to use one of the supplied exotic ingredients (apparently balsamic vinaigrette is exotic...I guess for use in desserts, maybe). She picks the violet blossoms used as a garnish, having tasted candied violets in Paris, and uses the decorate a fancy macaron cake. At first she's told the violets weren't one of the ingredients, but she counters she was told to use anything on the table, so she's technically correct, which is the best kind of correct. For her talent and ingenuity, Grace wins the grand prize.

Grace gives the money to her grandparents so they can buy a new oven and other things they need. They insist she should have some of it for the bike she wanted, but Grace says her old bike is fine (it's not, but whatever). If she were to use some money for something, Grace would fly Sylvie out to visit. Because a round-trip ticket from Paris is about the same as a new bike, right? (I just looked it up, and unless Grace had her heart set on carbon fiber frame, which would be ridiculous at her age and non-competitive level, the ticket would be about double or triple the cost of a decent bike.)

Just as she's saying this, surprise! Her grandparents flew Sylvie and her whole family in for a visit, and they've just arrived. With Bonbon--and Grace gets to keep the dog!


Misc

Filmed in France, Hungary, and Romania.

I put this on hold at the library, but there are over a hundred people ahead of me. So, like with Isabelle's movie, I found it on Youtube.

Grace's bike is too small for her. She needs a longer frame (I used to work at a bike store). And she rides without a helmet, odd for a movie aimed at present-day girls.

Grace's grandparents have accents, but I don't know from where. I think France, but I can't place accents very well.

I would complain about how giddy and giggly Grace and her friends often are, except I've spent a lot of time around ten- and eleven-year-old girls, and they're not acting that unusually.

In addition to having a talent for making delicious food, Grace has good business sense too. She's very good at advertising.

The subplot of Grace's mom training for and running a half-marathon is dropped for the movie. The actor playing her mom doesn't have a runner's build--she's not fat, you just don't think "half-marathoner" when you look at her.

Sylvie is near-fluent in English in the movie, although she doesn't reveal that at first, being unsure what to talk to her cousin about--they've never really spent time together before now.

And everyone speaks English, almost all the time. Grace gets almost no chance to learn French, and why should she if Parisians speak solely English to each other instead of their native French, even in the privacy of their own homes?

There's a Parisian street band that sort of acts as a Greek chorus. Which Grace briefly hallucinates at the end of the movie.

I was just about to mention that Grace's aunt doesn't take her bedrest orders very seriously when she mentions that her doctor lifted her restrictions.

Bonbon is  referred to as "he" and "him" in the movie, which is good because it's hard to hide that the short-haired dog is clearly an unneutered male.

If someone tells me "I'm too nervous" about holding my baby, I accept that. I don't want a nervous person potentially dropping my kid.

Grace and her mom return to the US shortly after Bastille Day, July 14. According to a school calendar I found for Bentwick, MA, school gets out in mid-June, so they spent about a month or so in Paris.

Everyone's in long pants when Grace returns, in a humid New England summer. TOO HOT.

Grace feels nostalgic and looks through the most disorganized photo album ever. It has random pictures of her and her brother at different ages with no sense of continuity and then a picture of her grandparents on the opening day of their bakery. For someone as compulsively organized as Grace is said to be, it stands out.

The baking contest appears to be airing live, from the real-time reactions of people watching at home.

Ground coffee in a chocolate cake? THIS IS MOST UNORTHODOX! (Seriously, why was that idea labeled "courageous" by the baking judges? I wouldn't like it myself, but that's basically tiramisu.)

The end credits play over scenes of Grace being lost in Paris.


Cast

Grace Thomas - Olivia Rodrigo
Mrs. Thomas - Virginia Madsen
Mr. Thomas - Rafael Edholm
Josh - Tom Doherty
Maddy - Caitlin Carmichael
Ella - Notlim Taylor
Sylvie - Eloise Webb
Aunt Sophia - Lili Bordán
Uncle Bernard - Fabrice Michel
Grandma - Krisztina Peremartoni
Grandpa - András Ba]álint
Colette - Roxane Bret
Joe Bastianach - himself
Parisian Vendor - Karen Gagnon
Paris Street Artist - Luca Fiorilli
Concierge - János Fuzi
Shopkeeper - Barnabás Toth
Judge 2 - Philip Waley
Judge 3 - Alexis Latham (Judge 1 is Joe Bastianach, also the show's host)
Carter - Maxime Leigh-Wood
Red Boy - Benjamin Lavoie
Jean Luc Pernaud - Thierry Harcourt
Wildcat Player - Nicholas Waley (son of actor Philip Waley, who also produced the film)
Taxi Driver - Zoltán FriedenthalVarious Voices - Hélène Cardona, Karen Strassman, Luke Stratte-McClure

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