Faith-based films are becoming more abundant. What’s more, they are becoming more and more like real movies, not just cinematic sermonettes. And better still, many Hollywood actors looking for roles of substance are embracing film characters that depict the spiritual nature of mankind.
Greg Kinnear brought a gravitas to the film Heaven Is For Real. Reese Witherspoon took basically a supporting role in The Good Lie (opening 10/3/14). Nicolas Cage is soon to be seen in the reboot of the end-times adventure, Left Behind. These are all fine films and others are on their way to the very cinema screens that normally feature caped crusader actioneers and crude comedies starring guys named Seth. The latest, The Song, (9/26/14) a modern take on the life of Solomon, may be the best, so far.
Alan Powell, son of Fort Myers pastor Richard Powell, is receiving rave reviews for his debut screen performance as Jed King in The Song. A music-driven romantic drama, The Song shows the protagonist’s search for things we all long for: significance of life and the true meaning of marriage. The film is produced by Kyle Idleman, pastor of Southeast Christian Church and City on a Hill, who believes “it’s time to ‘take back’ the conversation on love, sex, and marriage from the worldly way they’re usually treated and instead ‘awaken love’ the way God intended.”
The updating of biblical parables takes a savvy touch by anyone attempting to transfer them to the motion picture screen. Few know how to present the updated stories without beating you over the head with the Bible story similarities or their messages. After seeing countless renditions of the prodigal son’s hard knocks/life lessons treated with all the subtlety of a Joe Biden speech, I was leery of a film update of the life of King David and his son, Solomon. I was pleasantly surprised.
Writer/director Richard Ramsey adeptly transfers Solomon’s assertions about what really matters in life, found in Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon, to today’s setting. His lead character is a musical celebrity, a person lured by all the temptations that affected Kings David and Solomon. Mr. Ramsey presents the sanctity of marriage both intellectually and emotionally, and never overwhelms the story with the underlining testimony. His cast reaches all the right notes and the crew’s technical contributions help energize the proceedings.
This is a film I liked, though I must admit I had to overcome one prejudice. In keeping with most movies and all commercials, the lead wears a four-day growth of beard for the first third of the movie, which remains at the same length scene after scene, even in flashbacks. The style, an affectation, drives me crazy.
Recently I interviewed the film’s star, and I made it clear that if we could get past this first question, he’d find the remainder of the inquiries to be of a more friendly nature. He was game.
PB: Okay, here goes. What’s with the four-day growth of beard through the first third of the movie? I know it’s a trend, but often in movies its use says more about the actor than the character. What was your reason for having it and did the director argue over it?
AP: Richard Ramsey was looking for a way to age the character. I’m seen as a young teen early on, but I age throughout the story. The beard helped. Then, as you will recall, the beard begins to grow as the character becomes more consumed by his career.
PB: (Not a good answer, but an answer. So, I dropped it and moved on.) What’s your religious background?
AP: I’m the son of a minister, brought up in church.
PB: Are you still a churchgoer?
AP: Absolutely. My wife and I are regular attenders. I take my faith seriously. And my witness. In the film, for example, I have to kiss the actress who plays Jed’s wife. I’ve taken a vow not to kiss anyone other than my wife. I mean, the film is about the importance of marriage, so it just didn’t seem right that, for the sake of a movie, I’d kiss another woman. So, through movie trickery I’m actually kissing my real-life wife in that scene.
PB: What are you hoping people will take away from your film?
AP: We get caught up in the busyness of life. And we often seek what glorifies ourselves. But as Solomon realized, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” He came to understand the true purposes of our being here and what was truly important to a person’s soul. I think the film addresses this issue with integrity. It’s my prayer that The Song will witness to nonbelievers and help strengthen the body of Christ. Plain and simple.
Alan and I ended our conversation as true brothers in Christ, despite my 4-day-beard-growth bigotry. And I’m glad to report that faith-based films are alive and well, including his.
A moving, entertaining ode to marriage, The Song is one of the best films of the year. The Good Lie is another film that has made this critic’s best-of-the-year list. But, Lord willing, more about that one next week.