On Monday, Ken Morefield reviewed the new film Gimme Shelter for Christianity Today. It’s a film with a strong pro-life message that also has good performances. He made a good point about this in his review:
In his introduction to George MacDonald: An Anthology, C. S. Lewis wrote, “There are indeed, passages, many of them in this collection, where the wisdom and (I would dare call it) the holiness that are in him triumph over and even burn away the baser elements in his style.”
Lewis was wrestling with the “difficult critical problem” that the minister-turned-author presented. On technique and craftsmanship alone, Lewis says, he could not place MacDonald in “the first rank” of literary artists. But Lewis, as a Christian, fears that some qualities of MacDonald’s writing—things he recognizes and cherishes—will not be valued properly by those who judge a work on its technical excellence alone.
Lewis sometimes allows holiness to triumph over style when acting in his role as critic, and today, that might border on the professionally scandalous. But it’s a good model for the Christian who strives to have both intellectual and spiritual integrity. The Christian doesn’t have to call bad art good—but he doesn’t need to apologize for insisting that some art that gets called bad by everyone else really isgood.
I’ve seen a more poor Christian craftsmanship championed in my life than I’ve seen adequate craftsmanship elevated by its “wisdom” and “holiness.” But examples of the latter exist.
Gimme Shelter is a good movie in the moral sense of the word, and it’s certainly not a bad movie in the technical sense of the word. Its presentation isn’t as good as its message, and it lacks some nuance and focus—the characters in particular don’t have as much depth and dimension as we might have liked—but their situations are dramatic, and that comes through. The writing is slightly above average for the genre. The cast is uniformly excellent. Vanessa Hudgens will probably get a lot of well-meaning but misguided praise for being unrecognizable, but that’s just make-up and wardrobe. She conveys both her character’s toughness and her emotional vulnerability without over-emoting.