Ron Hall is an international art dealer who seemingly has everything a man could want: a high-paying job, a nice house and a wonderful wife.
But just like the fake paintings he occasionally gives as gifts, looks can be deceiving. Hidden behind the façade is a marriage on the rocks – a marriage seemingly headed for divorce after his wife discovers he’s involved with another woman.
She doesn’t divorce him, though. Instead, she works to save the marriage and change his heart. This overhaul involves them volunteering their time at a homeless mission, where they fill plates in a food line and get to know the people of the street.
Although Hall initially despises the work, his tune changes when he unexpectedly befriends the mission’s most infamous homeless person – an angry man nicknamed “Suicide.” His real name is Denver, and soon he and Hall discover that despite their differences – different races, different socioeconomic backgrounds – they greatly benefit from one another.
It’s all part of Same Kind of Different As Me (PG-13), which opens this weekend and tells the true story of a wealthy man whose life is turned around thanks to a relationship with a homeless man. It is based on a New York Times bestseller by the real-life Hall and stars Greg Kinnear as Hall; Renée Zellweger as his wife, Debbie; Djimon Hounsou as Denver; and Jon Voight as Hall’s father. O.S. Hawkins, the president of GuideStone Financial Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, also has a small role as a funeral minister.
It is a faith-based film with an all-star cast: Zellweger and Voight have won Academy Awards, while Kinnear and Hounsou have been nominees. Pureflix and Paramount are partnering in its release.
Same Kind of Different As Me is an inspiring and entertaining film that spotlights grace, forgiveness and empathy – with Romans 8:28 (“… all things work together for good …”) as the backdrop. Like many who will see it this weekend, I cried. Let’s examine the details.
Warning: moderate spoilers!
Minimal. An out-of-control Denver breaks the homeless mission’s windows and then a car’s windows with a baseball bat. Later, he tells about his background and (in a flashback) we see KKK members drag him down the road with a rope around his neck. We also learn that Denver committed a violent crime that landed him in prison.
Minimal. We learn that Ron and Debbie haven’t “slept together” in several years. It is implied that he had an affair, although we don’t see the woman. Later, Ron and Debbie kiss.
Minimal. I counted only a handful: misuse of h–l (1); n-word (4). We also hear the word “negroes” twice and the word “sexy” once. There’s a moderately crude joke.
Other Positive Elements
Debbie’s ability to forgive is remarkable. She even calls the other woman and says calmly: “Hopefully you can find someone who loves you the way Ron and I used to love one another.” Then, she gives Ron the option to stay. When Denver tells her about his violent past – which included prison time – she says, “You’re not a bad man. … And I’m glad we’re friends.”
We see Denver being baptized, as a preacher talks about Christ’s burial and resurrection.
Other Negative Elements
Ron’s father is a grumpy man who doesn’t have a filter for his words. That leads to some uncomfortable moments at the dinner table – and to Ron kicking his dad out of their house. “I don’t want you to ever come back here,” Ron says.
Same Kind of Different As Me includes life lessons on forgiveness, empathy, racism, reconciliation, and even caring for the homeless.
It’s easy to talk about forgiveness. It’s harder to do it. Yet, it’s what Christ commanded: “Forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses” (Mark 11:25). We forgive precisely because God forgave us. Debbie does that to Ron: “I don’t blame you. … I forgive you.” She even forgives his mistress – and calls her! It’s a remarkable example of the gospel’s power.
The film also puts Romans 8:28 on display, as Debbie believes the affair ended up being a good thing for their lives.
Same Kind of Different As Me is a family-friendly film, although it contains a few moments that young children probably shouldn’t see. Those include a scene with KKK members and a scene with frank discussion of an affair.
What I Liked
The message and the story. It’s a genuinely funny movie with some surprises – particularly for moviegoers (like me) who hadn’t read the book. The lead cast has solid chemistry. The acting is stellar. Denver’s Louisiana accent is top-notch.
What I Didn’t Like
Nothing major. I would be nitpicking if I listed anything.
Thumbs Up … Or Down?
Without a doubt, thumbs up.
- Place yourself in Debbie’s shoes. Could you have forgiven – and could you have done what she did?
- Why is forgiveness so important in the Christian life?
- Read Romans 8:28 and apply it to this movie. Was the affair, in hindsight, used for good?
- What is the key to reconciliation in a broken marriage? Be specific.
- What does the Bible say about racism?
Entertainment rating: 4 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 4 out of 5 stars.
‘Same Kind of Different As Me’ is rated PG-13 for thematic elements including some violence and language.