Grace and Dolls
My wife and I went to see a couple of “Mormon Movies” (whatever that means) these last few weeks. I’ve wanted to comment on them here, but I’ve not been to sure what to say. I enjoyed them both very much, but they both hit me on such a personal level, I wasn’t sure how to “review them” for my blog.
I think I’ve decided to just talk about them personally.
The first one was “God’s Army II: States of Grace”. Man, what a show. It really engages you, makes you love the characters, and then takes you to hell and back. And I really mean that. It’s all about people who need God’s grace. Some, like the missionaries, and the itinerant preacher, are the characters that you feel should know what it is all along, but you see that even they are discovering it. You watch the world come out from under the lives of these people, to the point where only God’s grace, and their acceptance of it can make their lives better. That’s the hell. As you see them begin to welcome it into their lives, and back into their lives in some cases, that the “and back again” part.
This show really showed me how important the scripture “though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow…” (Isaiah 1:18)
There’s been a lot of controversy over this show. It’s not for the faint of heart. It shows people making some very grave mistakes (though it never becomes graphically violent nor sexual). It shows some of the suffering that those mistakes cause. It shows people beginning to repent from those mistakes.
One of the strongest moments of the movie comes when, after one character attempts suicide under the weight of his guilt, another tells him, “You shouldn’t have to die for your sins. Someone else already did that.”
So, even though at the end, I felt very hopeful, this is definitely NOT a “feelgood” movie.
The other one, “New York Doll” definitely IS a “feelgood” movie.
My wife went to this one begrudgingly, and I don’t think she really enjoyed it, since documentaries aren’t really her type of show. But I loved it. For those that haven’t heard, it tells the story of Arthur “Killer” Kane, the bass player for the New York Dolls, one of the early glam-rock bands that defined a moment in the early 70’s. Virtually every punk or edgy band since then (many of whom were interviewed in the show) commented how the Dolls had influenced them.
After the Dolls broke up, Arthur tried to form other bands, but was never that successful, and finally almost died an alcoholic. He called for a Book of Mormon off of a TV ad, and ended up joining the church. He was working at the family history library in LA, when a festival promoter called to have him perform in a reunion show.
He does the show, and it’s one of the high points of his humble, quiet life. The cool part is that he maintains his “mormon-ness” as he re-unites with his band-mates. His bishop, speaking of when Arthur had visited him, asking about the show, said, “I told him to do the show, and just be a good Latter-Day Saint, and everything would go fine.” And it did.
The ending of the documentary surprised me. I wasn’t ready for that. I won’t spoil it though. I will say that the whole movie showed me a great man whose humility and testimony shone through the whole experience. Here was a man with his priorities in order.
This movie hit me on a personal level because I’ve been struggling with my own musical “career” over the last few months. I’ve been wondering what sort of impact I’ve been having, or what the value of the music is. I’ve been frustrated that it doesn’t seem to be moving forward. This show reminded me to “be a good Latter-Day Saint, and everything will go fine.”