This weekend I asked my girls if they wanted to watch a movie. They said yes. They picked Grace Unplugged.
So the story is an 18 year old girl re-records her dad’s hit song of twenty years ago and it goes viral. He is a worship pastor and no longer wants the life of a rock star but his daughter wants it. She leaves home, goes to LA, wows the industry with her voice and quickly experiences the temptations of “the world.” She drinks, dates, gets tempted to sleep around, and when the industry learns she can’t really write songs…they tell her they will write songs for her. Which is awesome until she hears the songs. And she says – I can’t sing these words and they find somebody else to sing them.
I did not hate the film. And I wanted to like the film. I did. The actors can sing. They can act as well – no terribly awkward moments that make you feel like you are watching a church skit rehearsal.
What ultimately fails the movie is the script. To be more specific, the ideology of the person who wrote the script. There are way too many instances where things are painted in clear black/white issues that isn’t fair (or accurate) to Christ-followers or those who don’t believe in Jesus.
For example, how the movie treats secular music in general. There is an ever present sense that all secular music is going to lead people away from God and is done for selfish ambition. All Christian music is good. Of course, music is just music. It’s not secular or Christian in and off itself. Not all secular music is bad, not all “Christian” music is good. There is good music with good lyrics and there is good music with awful lyrics. There is also awful music with awful lyrics – also known Nickleback.
Another example is how alcohol is treated – always evil. Always painted as – whoever drinks ends up becoming an alcoholic or a drug user. The parenting style of the dad at the start of the movie showing him to be an authoritarian dad using the Scriptures to keep his daughter and his wife in their place. The daughter is consistently shown as a spoiled rotten brat.
There is a moment in the film where the dad actually has a conversation with his daughter in the back alley of a bar. For a split second, we are tempted with a scene that could have produced an incredibly deep, nuanced conversation between a daughter who wants to follow Christ AND make it in the industry and her dad who wants to follow Christ AND protect his daughter AND help her be successful. That could have been the signature scene in the film about what being salt and light looked like, what is the difference between compromise and conviction?
Instead we get – “You are so not ready for this” from the dad. A mad, spoiled brat reaction of “I’m 18, I know what I want” from the daughter.
It’s almost like they painted themselves in the corner with their characterization and they couldn’t get them out of it. I think most of us understand that life is a bit more complicated than how it was painted in the film. I’d love to seen the tension of what it means to be IN the world but not OF the world.
I think this set of actors could have pulled that off. They all delivered GREAT performances but it appeared they were also handcuffed to a pretty narrow script.
The movie ends with a ‘neat’ ending of her returning to her home church to sing a “Christian song” and then later she is shown as touring with Chris Tomlin. I guess that’s heaven or at least the Christian, authorized version of making it in the industry.
If you have younger girls, it will make for a nice, clean movie they will enjoy but won’t necessarily become a family favorite.