Post #9 on the Jesus Movement as I remember it in Southern California.
As the movie trailers for "Jesus Revolution" began to pop up in my FB feed a month ago or so, old 50+ year old memories came flooding back. And they continue to "pop up" in my head. Since I enjoy writing, it seemed a good use of those memories to catalog them in my rarely used blog. After all, I'm retired and have the time! All the while I was hoping that the movie would not only be true to the story, but would be well done in acting, directing, photography and overall production. The anticipation of the film's release grew within me. I wanted it to be that good.
I'm no Siskel or Ebert, so this isn't going to be a critique as much as a subjective review, not of the "movement" but of the film's narrative. I wasn't sure what to expect. Would it be a drama? Would it be more documentary? It's both, really.
It is not an over-arching documentary on the Jesus Movement as a whole. The Movement actually had its start among the hippies in San Francisco in the late '60's. But it focuses simply on what took place in Orange County - mostly Costa Mesa where Calvary Chapel is located - and "Pirates' Cove" - an indentation in the rocks on the channel between Balboa (Newport Harbor) and the Pacific at Corona Del Mar State Park. For those who know, that location is directly south of The Wedge and the former home of John Wayne. But, back to the movie.
The story begins sort of where it ends, at the Cove with Chuck Smith answering a question from a reporter. At the end young Greg Laurie is about to set off on his future gig as a Calvary pastor in Riverside, but not before one more baptism scene.
There are essentially three story lines in the drama. One is the dilemma of Pastor Chuck Smith, dealing with an aging, traditional and self-centered flock who want nothing to do with hippies coming to their church services. The second is tied to that and is the story of hippie preacher and self-proclaimed prophet Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie challenges Pastor Chuck to welcome the hippies and watch what God will do. The third story line is of wannabe hippie high schoolers Greg Laurie and Cathe Martin and their search for truth that eventually leads them to Jesus. All three stories are skillfully interwoven, including the use of flashbacks in Greg's story.
There is a theme of acceptance throughout the movie and that the doors of the church should be open to all seeking truth. There is the theme of rejection, especially in Greg's struggles from being abandoned by his father and Lonnie's battles with ego. All three of the main characters, Chuck, Lonnie and Greg demonstrate that Christians are not perfect and all have flaws, yet even so can be greatly used by God.
I was asked a lot of questions by other movie-goers at the theater.
- Was it accurate? As best I know (and I've read a lot to go along with what I knew and heard back in the day0, it was very accurate. Not perfect, but the minute inaccuracies did not alter the story. I've seen lots of footage from those days, and the film portrays it well. Even the scene with Kathryn Kuhlman was scripted right from the real moment.
- What did I think? I thought it was great! Easily it was the best Christian film I've seen in the last 50+ years. Remember "A Thief in the Night"? "Jesus Revolution" was well done. If I had more thumbs I would give it that many thumbs up. Go see it.
- Did I see myself in any of the pictures? That's funny. No. I didn't attend Calvary Chapel and wasn't baptized in the ocean. But I have friends who did and who were. But I have gone through the cave at Pirates Cove and Gail and I rode the ferry from Balboa Island to the beach. I don't remember any kissing, however.
- Was I a hippie or a "square"? Again, I'm laughing. I lived in the home of a Marine gunnery sergeant and went to an independent fundamental Baptist church. What do you think?
Disappointments? The band Love Song in the movie looked nothing like the real guys. I wish they had lip-synced their music.
Early scenes at a "happening" at Laguna Beach might not compute with the younger generation. LSD being dropped from a plane; Janis Joplin; Timothy Leary. That might need to be explained to younger viewers.
What most impressed me was it was well-written and acted. Really well. Kelsey Grammer should get an Oscar nomination from this. Jonathan Roumie as well. Why not? He was a convincing hippie. "This house has a great vibe". And then, although it wasn't preachy, I think the Gospel was presented clearly enough for non-believers to get it.
Lastly, I wondered if I would get emotional. That was a life-changing period of my life. My wife will tell you I only cry in movies about dogs. But, at my first viewing I was choking up just listening to the producers talk about it before it started! At my second viewing it got me at the very end. Oh, to see it happen again. One way!