Saturday, 22 February 2014

Movie Review: A Greater Yes

Full title: A Greater Yes - The True Story of Amy Newhouse

The description on the jacket of this movie is compelling. Unfortunately, the jacket promised more than the movie delivered. "After climbing Pampa High School's popularity chain, taking her volleyball team to the State championship, and founding the school's first drugs, alcohol and violence-free club (none of which is portrayed in the movie), Amy Newhouse must now fight the biggest battle of her life - cancer." Later in the description: "However, with her death comes life and redemption of Pampa High, as her club grows exponentially, redeeming the school of the once-rampant violence, drugs, and alcohol that she so passionately fought against." Again, none of this is portrayed in the movie. Instead we see Amy befriending a loner/loser who she witnessed stealing the student council money. By the end of the movie, he replaces the money.
What this movie needed was a lot more grit. There are serious issues that could have been dealt with and would have given this movie a lot more depth. The characters were not well-developed and the lead character came off as somewhat of an obnoxious, arrogant twit. I didn't even get to like her well enough to be sad when she died. "God always answers my prayers," she said more than once during the movie, implying that she always got a "Yes" as if somehow she was more special to God than others. That really rubbed me the wrong way. God answers all faithful prayers (and even a lot of doubting ones), but the answer is sometimes "No" and sometimes "Wait." God is not a cosmic vending machine where you put in your prayers and God dispenses the answer you selected. No, He loves us too much to give us an answer that is not in our best interests, and we need to submit to His will. Even Jesus prayed, "Not My will, but Thine be done." It's a bit of a paradox that we can pray in faith, but realize that God may not answer the way we desire. That's one of the things that was lacking in this movie, until the very end when Amy didn't have any choice but to accept the fact that she was dying. God, in His infinite wisdom, does allow people to die, and it is not expressing a lack of faith to submit to the fact that healing might not be in His plan for someone. I know from personal experience, having lost a niece at 6 years of age, my brother at age 57 and my mother at 73. All of these family members were much prayed for, but God said "No."
At the beginning of the movie, Amy seems to lead a charmed life: a perfect Christian family, a perfect boyfriend, and when she needs to raise $3000 to go to Africa, she gets the full amount from one woman. And of course, God always answers her prayers. It's all a little too syrupy for me and definitely not a life that the average person in the universe can relate to. My daughter was watching with me and disliked the movie and the lead character right from the start. And unfortunately, little of this movie is the "true story." You can see the real Amy's obituary here: Amy Newhouse Obituary. In it you will find that she came from a broken home, with both parents remarried and living in different towns from both each other and Amy. Her mother and husband are listed as "of Amarillo," her father and wife as "of Clarendon," while Amy is listed as "of Pampa." Who on earth was Amy living with? Now that's some grit that lots of us can relate to. Instead of portraying her as the cheesy girl from the perfect family, why didn't the producers show us who she really was? There are lots of teens who could have more effectively been reached by this movie if they knew Amy hadn't actually lived the perfect life before having the misfortune to die of cancer. Furthermore, in a comment on another review of this movie (The Practical Passion of 'A Greater Yes'), a real life schoolmate of Amy's says that she doesn't remember either Jordan (the loner/loser that Amy helped in the movie) or Tyler (Amy's boyfriend). In other words, they probably didn't exist. While I respect the rights of an author/script-writer to add fictional people and situations to an otherwise true story to create more appeal or drama or whatever, from the sounds of it, the real life Amy led had plenty of drama without fictionalizing most of the story. And leaving out a big part of it: the volleyball state championship, the drugs/alcohol/violence-free club, and so on. When Amy actually addresses an issue at her school during a presentation on her trip to Africa, it appears to be apathy that she's confronting, not drugs, alcohol or violence.
The acting was rather lame in this movie. My daughter said that it reminded her of her high school drama class and that it obviously was a budget movie. Oh, and the shot of Tyler putting a rose on Amy's headstone - that's definitely not a new grave he was on. And headstones are not usually added until after the grave has had a chance to settle. Why didn't they show both him and Jordan at her funeral instead? Surprisingly enough, for a movie centred around a young girl dying of cancer, there is no death scene, nor funeral scene.
While I admire the goals of Pure Flix Entertainment in producing Christ-centred movies, I'm sorry to say this one was a disappointment. It really didn't move me, and my daughter was bored. It is not necessary to avoid issues like drugs/alcohol/violence and broken homes in order to qualify as a Christian movie. From the sounds of it, the real Amy Newhouse deserved a better movie than this.