Kernel Rating (out of 5):
MPAA Rating: PG-13 Length: 117 minutes
Age Appropriate For: 13+. The faith-based film provides a modern take on “The Song of Solomon,” with a good man led into temptation through fame, drugs, drinking, and marital infidelity. Some kissing and implied sex scenes, discussions about virginity and extramarital affairs, drinking, smoking, and prescription drug use (including an overdose where a character tries to physically harm himself), the suggestion of an abortion, and the use of disparaging sexual terms for women.
The faith-based ‘The Song’ benefits from strong musical performances, but this adaptation of ‘The Song of Solomon’ suffers just as much from frustratingly antiquated female stereotypes. The film’s refusal to see shades of feminine gray is its most crippling flaw.
By Roxana Hadadi
When a film’s only two female characters are referred to in the movie itself as a “virgin” and a “whore,” it’s not that much of a stretch to think that film may have a woman problem. Which is exactly the issue with “The Song,” the latest faith-based film that is based on “The Song of Solomon” and often references the Bible; it seems like its characterizations of women are transported from that time period, too.
In the Christian tradition, “The Song of Solomon” has come to represent the relationship between man and God, but in its original form, it was about two lovers; “The Song” merges both versions together into a “provocative new music-driven romantic drama [that] addresses themes of love, sex and meaning” (the words of the marketing materials, not mine). But while it incorporates thought-provoking conversations and arguments about the role of sex in a marriage and the responsibilities of husbands and wives to each other, the film is cripplingly stilted by those outdated gender stereotypes. The film’s script is smart and pointed one moment and then cliched and silly the next; “The Song” doesn’t ebb and flow so much as zig and zag.
And, for the most part, the film’s greatest generosity is provided to its main character—who just happens to be a man. He has the most articulate dialogue; the most fully developed personality; the most sympathetic story arc. The two women who are part of his life aren’t given the same opportunity: they’re one-note, simplistic, and only consumed with thoughts of him. “The Song” has love and sex, sure, but the “meaning” it brags about isn’t one of gender equality.
As written and directed by Richard Ramsey, the film follows a young, up-and-coming country musician, Jed King (Alan Powell), who is trying to make a name for himself playing in bars and restaurants. He’s followed, though, by the shadow of his father, a legendary singer-songwriter as well-known for his music as his hard-partying ways and marriage to his mistress. Unable to book gigs on the power of his own name and thinking about giving up, King ends up at a small wine festival, where he’s immediately smitten with the vineyard owner’s daughter, Rose (Ali Faulkner, of “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1”). After a whirlwind courtship, they get married; he writes a love song to her called “The Song”; and his career immediately takes off with its release.
Soon he’s constantly on tour, leaving Rose to mostly care for their son and her ailing father alone; when he returns home, they argue about money and sex and then he leaves again. And things only get worse when the feisty, flirty, mischievous Shelby (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas) joins the tour as his opener. With her tattoos, pink hair, and piercings, she’s certainly different on the surface than the seemingly angelic Rose—and her chemistry with Jed both on- and off-stage is undeniable. Fans start to notice and eat up their duets together. Magazines put the pair on the cover. The record label wants to book up more tour dates. And Rose, at home, has no idea that anything is brewing. Infidelity is the last thing on her mind, and the first thing on Jed’s—does their marriage have a chance?
Love triangles can certainly be dramatic, and even when they’re trashy they can be enjoyable; the Jed/Rose/Shelby dynamic in “The Song,” though, is neither. Because Rose and Shelby are so static, their motivations are obvious to a fault: Rose wants to live a quiet, good, Christian life; Shelby wants to live a rowdy, sinful, non-Christian one, and both of them want to do it with Jed. Rose is living on her memories of skipping stones with Jed on their first dates, on him agreeing to wait to marriage to have sex with her, and to him building a chapel for her in his father’s vineyard; Shelby is driven by their insane onstage chemistry, the great music they make together, and her belief that he’s unhappy and stifled by their marriage. But what Rose or Shelby desire outside of Jed are never explored, even though Rose is clearly a committed mother and Shelby an ambitious musician; they’re just pieces in the Jed-bettering-himself puzzle.
Additionally frustrating are the ways the film panders to its religious audience, with clunky lines of dialogue (Rose talking about her favorite song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” stammers to Jed, “The lyrics are in the Bible; do you agree that God wrote them?”) and eye-rolling patriarchy (“What makes you think I should let you date my daughter?” Rose’s father says to Jed, even though Rose is in her 20s and should be able to make that decision for herself). The songs are well-performed and catchy, but irritating in how much they support the Shelby-is-slutty-just-because characterization (“Let yourself do what you want without an ounce of shame … I don’t care if it’s wrong or right” she sings with a wink to Jed).
And then there’s the omnipresent narration delivered by Jed, where he talks about his desires for fame, wealth, and love … and then moments later, delivers the exact same sentiment in actual spoken dialogue to characters around him. Why the repetition? Isn’t it clear how much this film is focused on Jed’s experience without having to literally tell us twice? If only “The Song” paid half that much attention to its female characters.
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