Ramona Reviews 'The Shack'

March 6, 2017

The Shack is a movie that I've been looking forward to seeing for several years. I was first exposed to the story when I received the book of the same name as a gift from my friend, Sharon Decker. Not one to usually enjoy reading fiction, I trusted her recommendation and dove in; after about page 35, I was hooked.

I share that with you as part of my disclaimer as an amateur movie reviewer.  Sharon knows a lot about my personal story; as a child of a father who has never claimed me and as a woman who sometimes feels overwhelmed by the responsibilities I've assumed, she knows I'm a questioning Christian, always seeking answers for what will heal the world and grow my relationship with my heavenly "father."

The booked moved me. It felt like I'd read a parable that helped me finally understand the "Trinity" I'd sung about in church since I was a child.  Picturing God as a Black woman helped me to comprehend a parental bond that had never been a part of childhood lacking a loving papa.

So, when it comes to The Shack it'd be tough to find a reviewer more biased than me. When I heard the book would be made into a movie I was thrilled. I fretted that Hollywood would demand that Oprah or Queen Latifah play God because they'd have the star power to draw people to the theater. When Octavia Spencer was given the role I rejoiced. She could give "Papa" the warmth and depth necessary to reach a man like Mac, who was so wounded by grief and guilt that he nearly gave up on life. 

It seemed like it took forever for the movie to become a reality. When the official release date was announced I purchased tickets the minute I could. I cornered a professional movie critic, Sean O'Connell from CINEMABLEND, when we worked together recently on Charlotte Today. "What have you heard about The Shack?" I asked excitedly. He told me that he hadn't been given the opportunity to preview it. I followed with, "That's not usually a good sign," and Sean agreed.

A tad disappointed, I still had high hopes for the movie. Critics are often unkind to faith-based films that many believers enjoy...War Room, Captive and October Baby to name a few. Nevertheless, I sought out the reviews. One of the most favorable came from the Washington Post's Alan Zilberman, who says the movie captures the didactic heart of the source material. At least Zilberman's review was comforting because it let me know that the movie followed the book, although "didactic" is a word often used to describe a manner of teaching that's rather patronizing to the student. In this case, though, didactic is fine my me.

I didn't need this film to keep me guessing or to have me watching on the edge of my seat. Most who will go to see it are probably familiar with the book, and familiar with suffering as well; surprise endings, steamy sex scenes and car chases aren't necessary. In fact, my hope was that it would end exactly the way it did.

Did Hollywood take a few liberties with the story? Yes. Did the movie-makers go overboard and lose the symbolism and meaning that touched the readers of the book?  Thankfully, no.