Today I’m joining all the other bloggers and social media folks who are weighing in on the movie version of William Paul Young’s best-selling novel The Shack.
I read The Shack when it was first published, back in 2008. Even if you disagree with my next sentence, stay with me. I didn’t love it; I didn’t hate it; I was simply left with a feeling of, “That’s it? That’s what all the hoopla is about?”
Unlike many who have criticized the novel, I didn’t care that God/Papa is portrayed as a female throughout most of the novel. I didn’t care that God/Papa is portrayed as non-white.
I was concerned somewhat about some of the comments by God/Papa and other Members of the Trinity because many people (unfortunately, in my opinion) formulate their religious perceptions and beliefs more from popular fiction and nonfiction than from the Bible. However, that concern was tempered by the fact that this is unavoidable and the hope that the dialogue in the book would lead readers to read what the Bible has to say.
Overall, though, I just didn’t think the book was all that well-written. I thought it was gimmicky and not well put together, and that there were things that just didn’t fit the story line.
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, when after I emerged from my 2-week flu-induced fog, I saw the online hoopla about The Shack‘s film adaptation. I had no desire to see it and no intention of doing so.
But what’s that saying about intentions??
This weekend, I passed the ticket seller $5, and he passed back to me a ticket to The Shack. I sat in the darkened theater with 4 complete strangers scattered around me, ready to watch the film and see if this time, almost 10 years after my first exposure to the storyline, I would have a different opinion.
In many ways, I didn’t.
The race and gender of the Members of the Trinity were not an issue for me. The same mild theological concerns I felt regarding the book were present, perhaps even more pronounced, in the film.
So, other than that, what did I — a woman who just a week ago was adamant that she was not going to see the film — think of the movie in terms of the movie itself and not its message or theological soundness?
First, I thought the casting was, with one exception, outstanding. No, the better word is stellar. Almost every actors’ performances embodied the personalities and emotions, for want of better word, of the characters they portrayed. Octavia Spencer’s eyes seemed to be the very embodiment of love and compassion, for example. On the contrary, Wisdom’s portrayer lacked emotion and connection to “Mack” and to the audience, nor did she in any way personify wisdom.
The cinematography was, for the most part, also outstanding. Two exceptions were the scene in which Jesus and Mack run across the lake and the hologram-type figures shown to Mack in a vision. The first was cheesy and overly-fake to the point that I felt myself cringing; the second was simply not well done. Other than those two scenes, though, I was captivated throughout the film.
My one “complaint” is that quite often I could not understand what Mack (played by Sam Worthington) or Willie (Tim McGraw) were saying. Part of that, I thought, is because of my hearing issues. Even with hearing aids, articulation can be problematic for me with men’s voices, particularly if I cannot see their faces or if the speaker does not move his lips very much. Mack’s face was often not clearly clearly visible and, when it was, his portrayer’s lips moved very little, and many (most?) of Willie’s lines are spoken as a narrator.
As I said, I thought the articulation issues were mine only, but several people have told me they also had trouble understanding what Mack and Willie were saying.
But what about the emotional impact?
I have never lost a child, thank God (literally), and nobody I know personally has been the victim of a violent crime, but I have struggled with the grief that comes with the death of a very close loved on. I’ve also struggled with regret and guilt (as Mack does) over my own actions.
I’ve always known God loves me and forgives me and has a plan for me and that His plan is far better than any I could come up with. I’ve known those things. In my head.
But in all honestly, I haven’t always known them in my heart.
But seeing the compassion and love in Papa’s eyes touched me. Seeing Jesus play with the little children in Heaven touched me. Sarayu’s (the Holy Sprit) words to Mack in the “messy” garden touched my heart.
All that said, I’m very glad I went to see The Shack, and I look forward to watching it again with closed captioning. I rarely — very rarely — watch movies and even more rarely watch one a second time, so that should indicate how impressed I was, overall at least, with the film
If I were Siskel and Ebert, I’d give the film 2 thumbs up!
If you’ve seen The Shack, what did you think? Please enter the conversation by posting a comment about what you liked or didn’t like, what moved you, etc.