Hollywood movies are a lot different today than they once were. We could almost always count on the fact, no matter how dark the story, there would be some type of redemption, motivating message, or justice at the end. But that’s not true anymore.
“Why do we watch movies?” an archived article from Relevant Magazine suggests, “We all agree movies allow us to escape…but it’s more than simple escapism,” writes Brett McCracken who has an M.A. in cinema/media studies from UCLA. “Movies take us to places we’ve never been and inside the skin of people quite different from ourselves.”
I am a self-admitted cinema lover, and part of it is escapism. An entertaining flick and buttered popcorn can make everything in a day gone terribly wrong seem instantly brighter. For me, to be a good movie, it has to have a happy ending, but not necessarily the syrupy predictable kind.
Even if it’s an action picture, one looks forward to seeing how the good guys will ultimately defeat the bad guys. That’s why James Bond has survived the decades. It’s also why many of us dish out our hard-earned cash to go to the theater or to rent a film.
So, when a movie comes to the end, and lacks a cathartic conclusion or has no ending at all, we might be frustrated. There are exceptions with a story being set up for a sequel. Even then, we can feel manipulated.
Some of us want to escape, be inspired, or simply entertained by a movie, not depressed. That’s why I enjoyed last year’s film, “Gifted,” so much. Without giving the plot away, it’s about a little girl (Mckenna Grace) who is a mathematical genius being raised by her ill-equipped single uncle (Chris Evans). It has lots of twists and turns, and critics and moviegoers really liked it.
I’m a devoted fan, because Tom Flynn, the movie’s screenplay writer, is from Lima, my hometown, and is a fellow Lima Central Catholic graduate. Not only that, but Mr. Flynn’s mother, Eileen, and my late mother were close friends.
On April 5, 2018, Flynn visited Lima, returning to our mutual alma mater to conduct a master class for prospective screenplay writers. I drove the 100-mile roundtrip to hear Flynn’s presentation, not because I want to write a screenplay, but because I wanted to see him. After all, once when my mother was going through a challenging season as a single mom, Eileen Flynn, who was a pioneering lady realtor, helped Mom buy a home with a dollar bill. My account of this miraculous event can be found in the 2017 “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Best Mom Ever” book.
Besides, Flynn’s “Gifted” is a Hollywood movie that’s beyond inspirational. Although not a faith-based film, it certainly doesn’t leave the viewer with an anti-climactic non-ending or a feeling of hopelessness as the credits role. We have enough hopelessness in our world.
Maybe that’s why hopeful storylines based on faith issues have also become quite prevalent in recent years. In 2004, Mel Gibson’s self-funded blockbuster, “The Passion of the Christ,” boasted a domestic gross of an incredible $370 million, and the movie industry took notice.
Yet the movement for faith-based films appears to lie largely due to the independent companies who started producing Christian movies, doing their very best on extremely limited budgets and with amateur actors. Understandably, sometimes their best fell short for sophisticated theatergoers who have been raised on spectacular special effects and seemingly bottomless studio budgets.
Faith flicks are gradually, but greatly improving overall with more professional casts, bigger budgets, quality writing, plus industry experience, and their domestic gross bears witness. For example, 2008’s “Fireproof” and 2011’s “Courageous” both grossed over $30 million. Then 2014’s “God’s not dead,” 2015’s “War Room,” 2016’s “Miracles from Heaven,” along with 2017’s “The Shack,” all grossed almost or over $60 million, according to www.boxofficemojo.com.
Yet no one could have anticipated the instant success of the Christian film, “I Can Only Imagine” starring Dennis Quaid. Released last month on March 16, the $7 million dollar-budgeted project had recorded box office receipts of approximately $75 million by mid-April. (www.boxofficemojo.com)
Apparently, lots of folks are willing to support motion pictures that align with their beliefs. Plus, the underlying message of a positively impactful movie – whether a secular inspirational or faith-based – can lend to the promise of a better tomorrow. The bottom line is happy endings offer hope, and our society desperately needs that hope right now.
Christina Ryan Claypool is a freelance journalist and an inspirational speaker. Contact her through her website at www.christinaryanclaypool.com.