There may not be any more emotionally charged issue in a family other than the death of a child than a child leaving the faith that the family has lived and embraced all their lives. Though I speak from a Biblical Christian foundation, I know this to be true for other cultures and religions as well. In many religions if a child denounces his faith he is not only excommunicated from the religion but ostracized and sometimes killed by his/her own family. It’s a very emotional topic.
It’s more than the outward appearance that the defection taints but the underlying belief system that a child walks away from that is at the core of the emotion. The bible shares a story that Christians and non-Christians are familiar with called the Prodigal son. It’s the story of a young man who grew up in the house of a loving father and brother (interesting that there is no mention of the mother in the story…maybe a post for another time) and decides he wants to take his inheritance early and go “sow his wild oats” or whatever that saying is. There are some details about that culture, what the father actually had to go through to get the money to his child and of course there are sermons galore about different aspects of this moving parable.
Tonight, a movie opens up that takes that story and modernizes it with a twist. Grace Unplugged opens at theaters across the nation this weekend. I had the privilege of interviewing Brad Silverman, the Director/Writer of the film on my last DadPOD episode
The Story of Grace Unplugged
The film is about the relationship and struggles between a father and his early 20’s daughter. They are on their church’s worship team, led by the father. He is a reformed former “one hit wonder” and she is a very talented young woman (Grace played by AJ Michalka of Aly and AJ Disney fame) who has aspirations beyond the worship team. As the relationship between her and her father becomes increasingly strained, an opportunity arises for her to pursue the big world of commercial music, ripe with all the glamour and trappings. The rest of the movie is the story of how she deals with all that is demanded of her, the struggle of parents to let children go and make their own way, even if they know what it will entail (remember, her father had been down that road before).
Grace Unplugged Reviewed
I’ve had the privilege of being a part of a revolution of new faith-based films that are beginning to rival the main stream films in more than just the message. Let’s face it, no matter how good the message of the film might be, if the story is poorly written, the videography is poorly shot and the acting poorly performed, the message will not be heard no matter how poignant or powerful it might be. The competition for the movie dollar is stiff. In the Christian film genre, it’s important to get the base moving. Once you do, you can make a significant blip on the radar of Hollywood executives and media mavens. But, it has to be well acted, scripted, filmed and packaged. WIth that little rant out of the way, how does Grace Unplugged stack up in the following areas: Story, Acting, Videography, Entertainment value and Moral mooring?
As far as the story (which I covered above), I thought that the script was nicely written. There was a tension between the father and daughter that was palpable. There were times I thought the father was unduly upset but as in all films, there are gaps that the viewer must fill in to understand how they got to that point in their relationship. The characters are developed well enough to for the main story line to be believable and to connect with us as the audience. In other words, I could see this happening and felt the characters’ emotions.
AJ Michalka delivers a convincing performance as the youthful daughter who has a passion to pursue music. She is comfortable in the role and she should be since she is a singer and this is her world. Kevin Pollak plays the role of Mossy, Johnny’s (Grace’s father, played by actor James Denton) former agent who happens to hear Grace sing. In an ironic set of circumstances, he becomes Grace’s agent and has to walk the line between maintaining his friendship with his old client, Johnny, and being in the middle of Grace’s venture onto the music scene despite her doing it without her parent’s consent. He is an accomplished actor who delivers a solid performance. The other main character is a young intern at the record company Grace is contractually signed to, Quentin (played by Michael Welch). He is a big fan of Graces having seen her previously and they have a humorous relationship that plays well on the screen. All in all I give the acting a “B”.
Entertainment and moral message
Overall, I found Grace Unplugged to be very entertaining and the message of hope and redemption displayed well and realistically. I appreciated the way the parents handled their situation. It’s a significant issue when a child wanders not only physically but spiritually. Though the film focused more on Grace’s wandering and dealing with the warring factions inside her, it touched on how the parents dealt with the decisions their daughter made. I actually enjoyed the film more the 2nd time I saw it. I saw the depth a little more and found myself more intwined in Grace’s dilemma. She struggles with all the significant issues that a young woman faces in that world; sex, alcohol, money, fame, etc. They are met head on but not glamourized like they typically are in secular films.
Summary and Thoughts about Grace Unplugged
I strongly encourage you to see the film this weekend. Maybe you don’t have children who are in a rebellious relationship with you at this time. But, you likely know someone who does or either you or they will experience a child who strays from the moral moorings they were brought up to believe and build their life upon. And, anyone who’s ever had a child understood or will understand what it feels like to open up the nest and push their children out to fly on their own. This movie provides great talking points for families to discuss and it’s a movie that you can watch, enjoy and not worry about any of the typical Hollywood “agenda” slipping in to the storyline. It’s realistic but wholesome. A great combo for a weekend movie event.
Why We Should Support Films Like Grace Unplugged
There’s another reason why you should go see this movie this weekend. If it was a poorly acted and written movie, I wouldn’t recommend you support it. Why? Because as Christians we are to do everything excellently to the best of our ability. Some of the best art ever produced, music ever conceived or literature ever written were done by Christian men and women. Somewhere during the last century we got out of the cultural game and let the secular world take the lead. So, it’s important that we produce great films with great messages. They don’t all have to have the gospel overtly stated but if I’m going to spend my money to enjoy a film, it better be entertaining and have some redeeming value, even if the value is that it made me laugh without making me embarrassed. I believe that beginning with Courageous and then October Baby and a number of other recent films we are seeing a surge in those kinds of films. Many say, “well, it won’t win an oscar”. First, we never know but of course as long as Hollywood is made up of anti-Christian executives, it probably won’t happen. But, the truth is that statement is misleading. Not every Christian film needs to be compared to an Oscar winner.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of “B”, “C” or “D” ranked films done every year that people pay money to see that won’t win an Oscar. We want to set high standards but our criteria for seeing a faith based film shouldn’t be based on the “Oscar winning” standard. Rather, it should be based on the value of the film, the message it gives and whether or not it presents itself well in light of who it represents overall in ALL aspects of the film…The Lord of Lords. If it passes that criteria I think we should turn out in droves telling Hollywood we want more of these films and encouraging young, talented, emerging film makers that you can make great films with a life changing message and go toe-to-toe with all the other films spilling out of Hollywood each year.
And, given that the most important weekend to show your support is the opening weekend. Many theaters and production companies are secretly hoping these movies fail. Of course if they succeed they’ll take it but many would love nothing more than to replace a Christian film with another violent, sexy, foul mouthed, morally vacuous film from Hollywood. Let’s not give them that choice. Go out in droves to see Grace Unplugged if the film is in your city. And, if it’s not, start calling the local theaters, ask them to bring it in to your theater and make them do it by putting together a ticket buying campaign.
THE GIVEAWAY CONTEST
Find out where Grace Unplugged is playing near you. Then, when you’re done, come back and give me a comment about the movie. Everyone who comments about the movie on this post will be eligible to win a prize. I’m giving away two of the books from the film (you’ll notice it in the movie) and a CD Soundtrack from the film. Great stuff. You’ll love the soundtrack. Leave your comment below and you are eligible to win!! Easy. Now, get out to see the film.