Christian Living


New in Town Puts Faith in Positive Light

Chris Carpenter - Director of Internet Programming

There is something special going on with the soon to be released movie New in Town from Lionsgate.  First, there was a decision made by producers to leave several scenes featuring a character sharing her faith in a positive way intact.  Now, word comes that Lionsgate has decided to delete some strong language from the film to make it more accessible to the entire family.

Sound strange?  Not really when you consider one of the screenwriters and a lead actor are Christians.

“Being a Christian writer, what I liked is the film has Christian values that really came through in the transition from page to screen,” says Ken Rance, who co-wrote the screenplay with C. Jay Cox.

“My role was to be a clearly Christian character,” explains actress Siobhan Fallon, of her role as warm-hearted secretary Blanche Gunderson.  “Faith is such a huge part in the United States but Hollywood seems to veer away from it because it is not hip.  I looked at my role as a gift due to the script and the bravery of the producers to go through with it.  I am so proud to speak about Jesus three times, not mocking Him, and have it be something that kids don’t see as weird.”

The movie stars Oscar winner Renee Zellweger as Lucy Hill, an ambitious corporate executive from Miami who loves her life of fashion, style, and climbing the corporate ladder.  When she is offered a temporary assignment Lucy jumps at the chance to prove herself.  What she doesn’t realize is that she is being sent to a small town in Minnesota to restructure a manufacturing plant that is the lifeblood of the town.  Lucy finds that her temporary job assignment becomes a life changing experience.  She not only finds greater meaning in her life but also the man of her dreams (Harry Connick, Jr.)

I had the opportunity recently to see an advance screening of New in Town and I must confess it is highly predictable.  The film is a typical ‘fish out of water’ story, not unlike a film of 1990s vintage – Doc Hollywood.  But what is different is this is a movie that you can’t help but identify with.  It is a movie about real people, leading real lives in America’s heartland.  The characters are quirky, lovable, and very similar to those inhabiting your local hardware store, VFW Hall, or favorite diner.

In fact, New in Town can teach us three very important life lessons – two practical, one life changing.

Lesson #1: Always dress warmly when going out into cold temperatures 

While this seems like a pretty obvious and silly one, the cast of New in Town found that filming in temperatures that sometimes dipped 50 degrees below zero could create extreme challenges.

“It was so cold that things would stick on you,” laments Louisiana native Connick Jr., of his three months filming in Winnipeg last winter.  “Why people live in these conditions I have no idea.  The people are amazing but let’s just be real.  That is crazy cold.”

“I didn’t know cold like that,” adds Zellweger.  “That was a whole different kind of experience from what I am used to.  Who knew pantyhose could be so very important – wearing three or four pairs at a time.”

Lesson #2: Local factories truly are the lifeblood of America

It is no secret that our nation is experiencing a downturn in our economy.  It has become a daily occurrence to hear about large corporations laying off hundreds of loyal employees at a time.  But while the numbers we hear about are staggering they are just that – figures on paper.  We may be temporarily alarmed by these sobering financial realities but most of us quickly move on to the next news item of the day.  However, these downsizing announcements have a face and it belongs to the hard working, blue collar folks who comprise much of America’s Midwest.

“All of those people who live in the middle of this country make our lives livable,” says Connick, Jr.  “They produce our food, our clothing, and our transportation.  This movie made me realize that these people are not statistics.  These are people.  Although I am ignorant about big business and how it affects work, there has to be some common ground between letting people go and realizing these people have livelihoods.”

“The people in New in Town represent the majority of the country,” adds Cox, who also wrote Sweet Home Alabama.  “We are going through a real crisis.  This movie is a romantic comedy but it is also about how regular people are making a living and the idea of closing down plants is not just about the numbers, figures, and bottom lines.”

Lesson #3: Change can be a good thing

We have all heard this before but do we truly believe it?  For better or worse we are living in an unrelenting world that demands we work harder, longer, and much faster than the generation before. There is no other way, we must have it all. This is so we can pay for the house, two cars, the needs of our children, and consistently make our employer believe we are Superman or Wonder Woman. All in the name of progress.

To do anything different, like slowing down, simplifying, or consciously altering some part of our lives, would be considered heresy to those around us.  But that is sometimes exactly what we need – a change.

“People get arrogant in the way they are living and forget about what is really important,” points out Fallon, who has purposely stepped out of the Hollywood lifestyle and has chosen to raise her family on the east coast instead.  “I think there needs to be a big shift because people really need their faith.  People are losing their jobs and egos are getting crushed.  But it shouldn’t be about ego.  It should be about your soul.”

Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.  Seek His will in all you do, and He will direct your paths.”

We are living in changing times.  This reality sometimes forces us to change, whether we were planning to or not.  The end result is feelings of discomfort, anxiety, and even stress.  But as the aforementioned verse points out, we are not to depend on our own understanding.  We are to seek Him for direction.

God places change in our lives for a reason.  Sometimes it is to strengthen us for something that lies in our life’s journey.  At other moments it is to deliver us from a situation that is preventing us from fulfilling our potential.  Change can provide new direction and purpose.   But most importantly, a changed heart is the bright promise of the Gospel.

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