MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo: Paramount Pictures/Pure Flix
Directed by Michael Carney. Starring Greg Kinnear, Djimon Hounsou.
I know that many Christians love the book that is the basis for the film Same Kind of Different as Me. While not quite as big of a mega-seller as The Shack, the book managed to sell over 300,000 copies. It’s the true story about Ron and Deborah Hall (Greg Kinnear and Renee Zellweger), a wealthyTexas art dealer and his wife, who are in the midst of a marital crisis when she discovers that he has been having an extramarital affair. Since Ron is penitent and Deborah is forgiving, there is hope. Deborah decides that there is no better way for Ron to work his penance than to volunteer with her and serve meals to the people at the Fort Worth homeless shelter.
One night in her sleep Deborah has a vision in which she is walking through a field and sees a black man that she has never met before. But shortly thereafter Denver “Suicide” Moore (Hounsou) comes into the shelter with a baseball bat, angry and bitter. Through God’s grace the Halls befriend Denver and begin a friendship that will cross class and racial barriers and help all of them to grow in faith for the challenges yet to come.
It sounds like a wonderful story, but sometimes a film can know all of the words but not the music. I had some similar problems with the film version of The Shack. Fans of the book could take out their checklist and agree that the material was respectfully presented, but for those unfamiliar with the source material, the movie fell a bit flat.
Same Kind of Different as Me, from first-time director and co-writer Michael Carney, is a long, clumsy and unintentionally offensive film. As the film begins we hear Ron Hall’s voice showing us the magisterial home in which he will be writing his book. Ron unapologetically admits that he is very, very rich. Throughout the course of the movie we will be reminded about this constantly as we will also be shown how gee whiz nice the Halls are to befriend a poor black man. And Denver will return the favor again and again as he tells the Halls how much he appreciates their kindness towards him. In a speech close to the end of the move, we will hear Denver tell a mixed race gathering of people how much he and the Halls are alike: “I found out everybody’s different – the same kind of different as me. We’re all just regular folks walkin’ down the road God done set in front of us.”
While I stand in awe of Denver Moore’s big heart and love of his new friends, I struggle with our current status quo and the very real differences in how our culture treats the rich and poor, with discrimination and disregard that seem to follow persons of color regardless of the best intentions of good Christian folk. I do not think that we are the same kind of different at all. That is our challenge and our shame.
This film offends because it unapologetically celebrates white privilege as it proclaims its “All Lives Matter” message. I am sure that in God’s Kingdom all distinctions will vanish but, in the meantime, “From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.” (Luke 12:48)
Three halos: A lot of good messages about forgiveness, understanding, and redemption are undone through mediocre filmmaking.
Two pitchforks: Some racist slurs, including the N-word; drinking/alcoholism; slavery; off-screen adultery; conspicuous consumption.
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Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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