So this is kind of a big deal for a cinephile like me –– deep breath –– I just went to my first movie premier / screening if you want to be specific. I was invited to a viewing of Same Kind of Different as Me. I was extended the invitation was a wonderful opportunity through my internship. I work with a nonprofit, and this “premier with a purpose” as it was called was for nonprofits in the area that work with the homeless community. I am very grateful for this opportunity to attend this premier with such selfless, giving men and women who work with such inspiring individuals everyday.
The film, Same Kind of Different as Me, is based on the true story and friendship of a wealthy art dealer, Ron Hall, his wife Deborah Hall, and a chronically homeless man, Denver Moore. This unlikely friendship begins with betrayal and a mysterious dream. The outcome of the innocuous friendship was a national movement that has raised over 85 million dollars to fight the plight of homelessness.
This at the start may seem like another typical, Christian film with a lot of heart, but lacking in the fluidity of professional acting. Not to say faith based films should not be made, I believe anyone with creative heart should share their message, but a stellar cast of seasoned actors certainly doesn’t hurt. And boy does this film have one: Academy Award Nominee Greg Kinnear, Academy Award Winner Renée Zellweger, Academy Award Nominee Djimon Hounsou, and Academy Award Winner Jon Voight.
Is your jaw off of the floor yet? This cast is a dream cast, and it shows. The film milks every emotional turn, and the actors know that they are making you sob in a theatre into your sweater sleeve. Kinnear plays the role of Ron Hall, a flawed man who stumbles upon a greater understanding of humanity through meeting Denver Moore. His wife, Debbie, played to perfection by Zellweger as a gentle, force of nature southern wife with a heart of gold. Debbie is the heart of this film, and her quiet strength is beautiful to watch unfold in her life and in her legacy. She is the reason the family gets involved in helping the homeless community in Texas, spurred by a dream of Denver, who she has not yet met.
Denver Moore is played by Hounsou in his most soulful, heart wrenching role since his breakthrough in Blood Diamond. Hounsou has a tall order in effecting a deep south Louisiana accent, but his eyes are so full of his tortured past that you are taken by his raw sincerity. This role was taxing and the relatively young actor transformed himself into Moore, a weathered man who shouldered more hardships in his life than most, yet underneath his forbidding exterior was a good man, and Debbie saw that, saw him.
The film, although slow to start has an emotional momentum that helps the at times stagnant script. The actors have great chemistry, especially Hounsou and Kinnear. Their grudging acceptance of each other under the watchful eye of Debbie soon forms into a fully formed friendship built on mutual respect.
One of my favorite scenes was when Ron took Denver to a museum, he was inviting Denver into his world, one of the only ways he knew to build a relationship. Denver had never been to a museum, but we soon discover he has a knack for understanding the painters vision. In a powerful scene he sees some shock paintings of the klan by Andrew Serrano. His purposefully provoking paintings are on display, and it creates an extremely powerful response in Denver, who has seen violence at the hands of such hateful ideologies. As tears stream down his face, Ron seems completely out of depth to deal with this information, but he does exactly what we all should do: he listens and shows empathy. This is the first step in their lifelong friendship.
This scene was especially powerful given the current climate of the world. Hate seems to be everywhere, but I firmly believe there is much more good. This movie does an impressive job of showing a human dignity toward people that we pass every day, guiltily avoiding eye contact as these men and women tell us to have a good day even as we drown them out insisting we have no cash. Its like Denver says, we don’t help them with their homeless situation if we give them food or a dollar, but we can let them know that they matter, that they are people just like us.
And in the end, that is what this film wants you to do: see people as they are. The same kind of different As you.
Same Kind of Different as Me is released in theaters October 20th. See where you can find tickets here.