Thursday, February 5, 2009

CTJ: It Sucked, I Loved It

Fireproof: *1/2 for Filmmaking Quality, **** for Enjoyment

I was prepared to loathe this movie because it is a so-called "Christian" movie. "Let us make a movie for the 'lost' masses," I knew it would say. "They will see it and say, 'Ah, alas. There ist he error of my ways. Now I will become Kirk Cameron's disciple."

As films go, the writing, the acting, and the direction are all really pretty rickety. Watching it was a bit like watching a baby take its first steps. I kept expecting it to topple over and get rugburn. But it never did. It just ambled awkwardly along and left all sorts of directorial don'ts in its wake like a trail of parts from poorly assembled car.

The dialog was superficial and unrealistic: "Hi honey. How are you?" "I am fine. It is really tough having a Mom who has been incapacitated by a stroke, don't you think?" "Yes. I do. Strokes are bad." Different strokes for different folks, maybe, but no cinematic stroke of good fortune could possible make up for this first-time screenwriting effort. (I could also throw in a joke about heat stroke since the film is about a fireman, but I will refrain.)

That being said, I loved "Fireproof." What it lacked in production values, it made up for in heart. It is rare that a deficiency in quality can be made up for with fuzzy-wuzzy goodness, and without the sort of accompanying resentment that comes with emotional manipulation. All that being said, it was definitely emotionally manipulative, and it was fuzzy-wuzzy. But shining between the cracks in its construction, I saw a lot of light and goodness that reminded me that God's love matters in this rickety world that totters back and forth like a child taking its first steps, or a drunken man stumbling headlong down the street. Marriage matters, and it matters a hell of a lot. Relationships matter because we exist in relation to God, and our relationship with those around us says a lot about our relationship with Him. There is a lot of good in this movie even if it is terrible. I enjoyed this terrible Christian commercial vehicle, and I suspect that the people who assembled it meant well. I received it well, probably much as God will someday receive me in my rickety state. When I finally topple over into His arms, I hope he can say, "Well, your life was one-and-a-half stars, but you gave four-stars worth of heart."

Here's to enjoying terrible films...

1 comment:

Jennifer H said...

I must admit, I struggle with your assessment. I hear the words of Greg Fiebig - "Effort does not equal excellence" - echo in my head. On a personal level, yes, our best effort is what is required. But I don't think that works in bigger picture areas. I don't want everyone's best effort in art taking up space in galleries. I don't want everyone's best effort at novel writing lining the aisles of Barnes&Noble. And I don't want everyone's best effort at film making showing on the big screen in my local theater.

I think there IS a place for it, but I don't think the place is on the national or global scale. As a former speech teacher and aspiring writer, you know that how we communicate is important. The medium has bearing on the message. And when you get half a star in medium, people miss the message -- even if it is four star quality.

I think it is fantastic that a church is playing in the creative (and by the way, this wasn't a first run -- this is that group's third film), and I think it could have a HUGE impact on the local scene, because those people are known and loved there... but does that really mean that amateur writers, actors and filmers really deserve space in the broader world of film?