Faith-based films are becoming more and more like real movies, not just cinematic sermonettes. 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 on Oct. 3). Nicolas Cage is soon to be seen in the reboot of the “Left Behind” end-times saga. Still others are on their way to the same cinema screens that normally feature caped crusader actioneers and crude comedies starring guys named Seth.
“The Song,” a modern take on the life of Solomon which opens Friday, may be the best so far.
Alan Powell, son of Florida 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 in life and the true meaning of marriage. The film is produced by Kyle Idleman, teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, in conjunction with City on a Hill productions.
Idleman 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 requires a savvy touch by anyone attempting to transfer them to the motion picture screen. 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 lives of King Solomon and his father King David. I was pleasantly surprised, however.
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 Solomon and David.
Ramsey presents the sanctity of marriage both intellectually and emotionally, and never overwhelms the story with the underlying testimony. His cast reaches all the right notes and the crew’s technical contributions help energize the proceedings.
I must admit that I had to overcome one prejudice. In keeping with most movies and 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.
I interviewed the film’s star the other day and 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:
PHIL BOATWRIGHT: 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?
ALAN POWELL: 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.
BOATWRIGHT: (I dropped the subject and moved on.) What’s your religious background?
POWELL: I’m the son of a minister, brought up in church.
BOATWRIGHT: Are you still a churchgoer?
POWELL: 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.
BOATWRIGHT: What are you hoping people will take away from your film?
POWELL: 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 brothers in Christ, despite my four-day-beard-growth annoyance. A moving, entertaining ode to marriage, The Song is one of the best films of the year.
— by Phil Boatwright | BP