Papa god and the buddy Christ
THE SHACK ★★
Directed by Stuart Hazeldine. Starring Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Avraham Aviv Alush, Radha Mitchell, Alice Braga, Graham Greene, Tim McGraw, Sumire, Alice Braga. Cert 12A, gen release, 132mins
The Shack, a faith-themed novel by Canadian author William P Young, was self-published in 2007. It subsequently spent 18 months at the top of the New York Times bestseller list and shifted more than 10 million copies, spawning additional self-help books, and now a major motion picture.
Not everyone is a true believer. Many theologians have taken issue with the film’s theology as either “problematic” or downright “heretical”. Other commentators have been discomfited by the film’s depiction of God as Octavia Spencer and the Holy Spirit as Japanese supermodel Sumire.
While the film’s introduction of a Holy Quaternity – say hello to Wisdom (Alice Braga) – did seem novel, theology and colour-blind casting are the least of this manipulative movie’s problems.
Sam Worthington keeps reverting to his Australian accent as Mackenzie Phillips, an American heartlands family man whose faith is questioned when his youngest daughter, Missy, meets a tragic fate at the hands of a violent paedophile. When Mack receives a mysterious letter from “Papa” (his wife’s nickname for God), inviting him to the shack where he last saw his daughter’s bloodied clothes, he takes a gun just to be on the safe side.
Once there, however, he encounters cool carpenter dude Jesus (Avraham Aviv Alush), who leads Mack to a well-appointed cabin in paradise, where Papa (Spencer) bakes pies, and the Holy Spirit gardens. Later Papa transforms into the veteran Native American actor Graham Greene ( Twilight), adding Mormon top-notes to an already muddled prayer therapy session. And then they talk. For hours. Mack rages against God for allowing the Heaven’s above: Sam Worthington in The Shack death of his daughter, until he is bombarded into submission by mind-body-soul-speak. As are we.
This scenario is no more improbable than anything in
Wonder Woman, but, despite a great turn by Spencer and pretty cinematography, it refuses to conform to anything like three acts. There is, moreover, something discombobulating about the notion that the suffering hero needs to let bygones be bygones.
Perhaps there are Christians who will appreciate The
Shack’s Oprahfied universal heaven, wherein no bad deed goes punished. But it made us pine for the Book of Job God to spitefully hurl leviathans and behemoths. TARA BRADY