By: BabyRuth (Four Beers) –
Take a look at the poster for Same Kind of Different As Me:
At first glance, this appears to be a promising drama featuring Oscar nominated/winning actors (Renee Zellwegger, Greg Kinnear, Djimon Hounsou, and Jon Voight) with a release date in late October, just on the brink of Important Award Contender film season.
So I felt a little bamboozled when I learned this is yet another entry in the ever-growing “faith-based cinema” category.
Upon further investigation, it seems that wasn’t necessarily the original intent. The movie was initially scheduled to be released by Paramount back in April of 2016, then delayed until February of this year. It was eventually was pulled and shelved. Pure Flix (God’s Not Dead, Do You Believe?) then acquired the distribution rights and gave it a (limited) theatrical release this past weekend.
Same Kind of Different As Me is an adaptation of the best-selling book of the same name based on the true story of white millionaires Ron and Deborah Hall and a homeless black man named Denver. Yup, it’s one of those stories. I guess Paramount was hoping for The Blind Side-style success, but seemed to have backed out right around the time the trailer dropped.
As The Guardian put it:
“This is a real trailer for a real film. It isn’t a spoof or a satire. Same Kind of Different As Me is distributed by Paramount Pictures and stars several Academy Award winners and nominees. It is a real film that people made on purpose.”
Married rich people Ron (Kinnear) and Debbie (Zellwegger) are having some problems. Debbie learns that Ron has been having an affair. But Debbie is a saint so instead of throwing the bastard out on his ass and taking him for everything he’s worth (which is a lot – they live in a freaking mansion), she calls up his mistress and tells her that she forgives her and that she hopes one day she will find love like the one she and Ron once had (seriously). For Ron’s penance, he must volunteer at the local homeless rescue mission (where she already, naturally, volunteers and everyone calls her “Miss Debbie” while giving her a thankful grin as she gives them an extra scoop of mashed potatoes). Ron doesn’t see the point and would rather just whip out his checkbook, but he wants to correct his wrongs so he begrudgingly obliges.
Debbie has been having some weird dreams. Dreams of sitting in a hospital room and spotting a magical, wise black man who she follows outside into a beautiful forest and he starts singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” while cartoon birds land on his shoulder. Okay, that last part doesn’t happen, but it may as well have.
One day while volunteering, she spots the very same man (Hounsou) from her dream. Only this time he’s screaming and breaking windows with a baseball bat. He is known as “Suicide,” but later we learn his real name is Denver Moore and to say he’s had a rough past would be a major understatement. Debbie attempts to get to know him, but he is cold and silent. She then appoints Ron to see if he can break through. Over time, Denver warms up to them and three develop a friendship that changes their lives forever.
All joking aside, the story behind the film is very sweet and inspiring. During the end credits (you know, when they show clips and photos of the real people) it is revealed that the foundation that resulted from the depicted events has raised an estimated $85 million for the homeless. That’s pretty awesome. In addition Pure Flix organized nationwide red carpet events that benefited local shelters. That’s pretty awesome too.
The film is well-meaning and sincere in the way it gives a face to homelessness that just may make some think differently the next time they see someone less fortunate than them.
There is lots of talk of God and faith of course, but the film is never preachy in the way that other entries in the genre are, which is refreshing.
The extremely talented and acclaimed cast elevate the material and deliver sincere, heartfelt performances, especially Hounsou.
In case you haven’t been able to figure it out from the trailer, this is the kind of movie that is so over-the-top sappy it dares the viewer not to cry. And if you resist and your eyes roll back into your head instead of producing tears, it will double down on the sadness and schmaltz until it eventually succeeds and pulls them out. Think it won’t happen? Just wait until the third act when the film takes a turn into Nicholas Sparks territory.
But again, it’s really the actors who are to thank (blame?) for this, because they are all (with the exception of Voight, who pretty much phones it in as Ron’s offensive and alcoholic father) way too good for this movie.
It’s too bad director Michael Carney (this is his first feature film) didn’t trust his very capable cast enough to let their performances provoke the emotional response alone, without feeling the need to punctuate every scene with the dramatic, swelling music. It’s distracting, annoying, and unnecessary. The one scene where he showed restraint (the affair confession) demonstrates how much more effective the drama is without it.
The film’s framing device consists of Ron recalling past events while attempting to write the book on which this is based. It appears and disappears over the course of the movie as much as Kinnear’s put-on Southern accent. But my main gripe with it is that it tells the story from his perspective and as a result, everything comes off a little self-satisfied. It would have been much more interesting to see the events from Denver’s side.
Though the true story is inspiring and is one that is deserving of being told, I can only recommend Same Kind of Different As Me if you are a big fan of any of the actors or of the book/real life people. Or my mom, because my mom loves these kind of movies.
Same Kind of Different As Me (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: every time Denver cries
Take a Drink: for every sad backstory
Take a Drink: for every “Hi, I’m Debbie, what’s your name?”
Take a Drink: whenever you catch yourself rolling your eyes
Take a Drink: whenever Greg Kinnear loses his accent
Do a Shot: whenever you can’t help yourself from crying (Damn you, movie!)