Review: The Imposter

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Today sees the release of Serendipitous Films’ The Imposter, directed by Daniel Millican, on DVD. Thanks to Christian production house Pure Flix Entertainment I was able to experience this in the comfort of my home.

Technically speaking, there were some issues with the DVD promo I received which could have been an isolated bug in reproduction but I was eventually able to watch the film on my newer Phillips DVD player.

It is supposed to be a modern retelling of the parable of the Prodigal Son but I found it to be more a telling of the human condition in American today. It chronicles the fall from grace of Johnny C (JC), played by Christian singer/songwriter Kevin Max. JC (a play on initial perhaps)is the front-man of an up and coming Christian band who squanders all his gains by making choosing himself over his friends and family (and through them Christ). JC is shown to have an addiction to oxycodone and is an adulterer.

Much to his dismay he seems to persevere in darkness for much of the film and only sees the light once he makes a “true” profession of faith in Christ according to the basic tenants held in most non-Catholic circles (More on that later).

JC turns to his earthly father, an Evangelical minister, who displays many similar traits mainly being an Imposter. In this film an imposter is defined as one who professes faith in Christ but whose actions do not measure to what the mouth professes. This is otherwise known as “lip service.”

The film does not end on a “traditional” happy note but more along the lines of a hopeful note. Its ending is a return to the opening of the film where the statement is made by JC, “God wants our hero to go through a process,” in reference to how one comes to Our Lord.

The actors in the film are capable but for me the performances came from Kevin Max, Kerry Livgren (Proff) and Tom Wright (Popeye). Direction and photography enhanced the actors’ performances and did not take away from the story, most of the time. The film was sprinkled with music videos which I thought took away focus from the story and appeared a bit forced and out of place. Otherwise the film was a definite 3 sparks from Oprah out of 5 (see the film to know the reference).

Now, the film’s theology could have been more troublesome than it was. I sense that the studio, director and production house wanted to appeal the Christan base as a whole and did not want to alienate those of differing faith traditions. However, there were some items that I found a bit problematic.

First, despite a valid marriage (I am assuming because both JC and his wife, Tara, are not portrayed as Catholic) there is plenty of encouragement from the “wiser” characters for Tara, played by Arianne Martin, to leave her husband. Now, with the life that JC is living this is understandable. But what I never see in the movie are any encouraging words towards Tara with concern to prayer on behalf of her husband and the fact that the marriage covenant is unbreakable by men (Mk 10:7-12, Mt 19:5-6, Rom 7:2-3).

There is also the fact that many of his friends turn their back on him and the band’s manager makes the point that the Chrisitan music scene would abandon the band if the addiction and womanizing of JC were to come out. Now, Prof does come back and call out James (Jeff Deyo) on his own motives for “helping” or not helping JC.

But the Prof also refers to Rom 10:9 when he comments on JC‘s state as a believer in Christ. As a Catholic Christian, I have no problem with this verse or the usual verses that we find to conjunction with the Protestant understanding of salvation. The problem I do have is that these verses are used to support the contested notion of “once saved, always saved.” What the film does masterfully here is that it does not explore this. It allows a Protestant to be firm in their belief and a Catholic to be appreciative of the film’s underlying theme that “faith is an act of action” as it appears multiple times during a couple of musical interludes.

Overall, I found the film deep and faithful to base message of coming to Christ and accepting forgiveness for our sins. Although you can watch it with your family I would limit the age to those entering middle school and above. The younger kids will probably react to the music but the depiction of drug abuse and adultery may be a bit over their head or through off parental timing.

My hope is that Catholics will respond to providing enlightening entertainment similar to this film but more with adherence to the Magisterium. We often produce films about saints and apparitions (I have not scene the 13th Day) but our silver screen heyday seems 50 years past and much of what we produce appeals to the intellectual side but not always the emotional.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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