Thursday, September 24, 2015

Grace Unplugged (2013)

Every father can agree that one of the greatest movies of this century is Liam Neeson's "Taken" because it teaches the important lesson that Dad was right all along. I'm not saying "Grace Unbroken" is in that class of cinema as it doesn't have shootings, electrocutions, or car chases but it still has that important theme. The reason I'm writing about it here is the film has a church, while, sadly, "Taken" does not.

"Grace Unplugged" tells the story of a one-hit-wonder rock star, Johnny Trey, (think Barry McGuire) who hit the skids and is now the worship leader in a small church. His daughter, Grace, plays with him on the church's worship team, but they fight and she leaves home for Hollywood to become a rock star. It's sort of like the Miley Cyrus story with a happier ending.

Early in the film we see father and daughter together in a church worship service performing the song, "Never Let Go". Though there are other singers and musicians, the two are standing up front -- both thinking they're the primary worship leader. The minor clash in styles is obviously not a small thing for them. After the service we see a friend of Grace's full of compliments which Grace swats away with disgust.

At home, we see father and daughter argue about the worship service. Johnny wanted Grace to play the piano, as she had in rehearsal, but she played the guitar.

He also wasn't pleased with her singing style, which leads to the memorable quote, "The rest of us are doing Chris Tomlin and you act like it's a Renae Taylor concert!" You probably don't know who Renae Taylor is, because she's a fictional rock star character in the film. She things like this: "In this business, your body is your main source of capital and sometimes you have to spend it." You might not know who Chris Tomlin is, but he is a real Christian musician.

And you know one thing for certain when you hear his name mentioned: he will make a cameo appearance in the film. Yes, it happens.

What I loved about this was it does capture something that I have seen happen far too often -- squabbling on the worship team. Yeah, usually it's brothers and sisters in Christ squabbling rather than a father and daughter, but it still is something that happens. A lot. Which always gets explained as "You know how those creative types are."

Something that baffled me in the film was the size of the church. All the pews seem full in the worship service we see, but even the most generous ushers' count would place it at about 120 people. Yet the church somehow seems to be able to afford a full time teaching pastor AND a full time worship pastor, Johnny Trey. The only possible explanation is he is living off the royalties of his hit, "Misunderstood," and at the church he's working for all the coffee he can drink.

We never see the pastor, Pastor Tim, preach, but we do see him socialize with the Trey family and providing counsel to Johnny. When the Trey family fights, Tim and his wife also bicker, and he chuckles sympathetically. When Grace runs away, Pastor Tim does offer sound advice. He says that Grace might not listen to Johnny's advice anymore, but he can trust her in God's hand.
In the end, Grace sees the moral depravity of Hollywood and returns home. Obviously, the church is what brings Grace back, with Pastor Tim mediating her return.  So we're giving the church (and Pastor Tim) 3 steeples.

(And though we usually don't review the film itself, I give the film two big thumbs up for the moment Grace says, "You were right, Dad."  I was touched.)

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