MOVIES: Redemption & second chances

KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP) -- I'm spotlighting three films today that, in various ways, speak of redemption and second chances -- "Trust Fund," "The Emperor's Club" and "I'm in Love with a Church Girl." Two are worth seeing; the third you may wish to skip.

Trust Fund

New to DVD through Amazon, Trust Fund has young Reese Donahue (Jessica Rothe) betraying her father by stealing from an inheritance and running off to what she thinks will be greener pastures. When Reese returns home laden with guilt, her father's forgiveness gently teaches her the folly of moral apathy.

A prodigal parable updated to include a bit of "Desperate Housewives" intrigue, this absorbing drama is well-acted, thought-provoking and clean (unlike Desperate Housewives). Jessica Rothe has a captivating screen presence and the producers revert back to a time when a film's essentials were not CGI effects, but were story, character and performance.

The original prodigal account and the many subsequent Hollywood takes on the biblical parable serve to remind that while we all at some point make selfish decisions which have a harmful effect on our lives and those of others, God will forgive a repentant heart and restore us to a relationship with Him (Psalm 32). Though not made with an altar call in mind, Trust Fund stealthy incorporates these same spiritual principles. (PG)

The Emperor's Club

As I viewed/enjoyed Trust Fund, I was reminded of a compelling drama from 2002, "The Emperor's Club." Kevin Kline starred as Arthur Hundert, a dedicated and inspiring professor, much like Mr. Chips and Mr. Holland. Like Trust Fund, this movie also deals with the consequences of our actions.

The Emperor's Club hints that all we truly own is our integrity. The possession of anything else is temporal. Indeed, it can be argued that although our strengths and abilities are gifts from God, we alone steer the course of our personal integrity. We make a conscious decision to either nurture or smother honesty. A free choice is given to us to either seek the Holy Spirit's direction or to man the helm alone.

I'm conflicted about giving attention to this film. Although The Emperor's Club includes a profound proposition concerning one's virtue, it also contains some content you will no doubt object to. Bear with me.

Having grieved for years over a misdeed, I joyously left The Emperor's Club press screening back in 2002 able to accept the truism that a person's character is not formed by one negative act. A life is made up of moments that reveal character -- and character can blossom over a lifetime.

That realization, secured from a secular movie no less, meant more to me than you could possibly know. I'd like everyone who lives with guilt to find such solace. That said, I can't recommend this film -- not even for that noble teaching.

You see, The Emperor's Club is justly rated PG-13 for various misuses of Jesus' and God's name, four obscenities and two sexual crudities; there is one obscene gesture; the bad boy student entices others when he opens his locker, revealing many temptations -- it's like Pandora's box, filled with adult magazines and other tantalizing moral distractions; in one scene, we briefly see nude photos; and sexual remarks are exchanged between the boys and some girls from the neighboring school.

So, why mention The Emperor's Club? Certainly this film says something about our movie-viewing evolution, doesn't it? It's a sad commentary that Christians must compromise their stance against profanity and exploitative sexuality in order to glean a film's positive themes.

Despite a film's powerful message concerning the growth of personal decency, I salute those who refuse to watch one containing content they find offensive. They're not being pompously pious. They're just taking a stand for their principles. Will that stance not aid in their witness to others?

I'm in Love with a Church Girl

Try my next choice, instead: I'm in Love with a Church Girl (2013).

A tense drama about an ex-drug trafficker, I'm in Love with a Church Girl was made with followers of faith-based entertainment in mind. There are no raw language, no graphic sexual situations, no crude jokes, and the violence would be considered tame even for network TV. Starring Jeff Atkins (Ja Rule to his rap fans), Adrienne Bailon and Stephen Baldwin, it honestly deals with second chances and a spiritual conversion.

Matters of faith are presented unabashedly, yet with a delicate cinematic touch. Aided by sensitive and convincing performances and well-paced direction, the production satisfies both as entertainment and as a reminder that it's never too late to change (or let character blossom). (PG)

Both Trust Fund and I'm in Love with a Church Girl are satisfying distractions from the toils of the day. At the same time, Trust Fund implies a need for spiritual healing, and I'm in Love with a Church Girl clearly points out that God will forgive a repentant, trusting heart. As Scripture tells us, "Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

Phil Boatwright is the author of "MOVIES: The Good, the Bad, and the Really, Really Bad," available on Amazon.com.
Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
Download Story