By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Around seven years ago, I attended a prayer breakfast at a Juice Plus+ International Conference, and I heard two completely different men speak. One was white, a man by the name of Ron Hall, a high end art dealer from the Ft. Worth area, and his best friend, Denver Moore, a formerly homeless man, also from Ft. Worth. The person who was not there was Ron’s wife, Debbie, who had passed away from cancer. The three of them had become inseparable since Debbie talked her husband into volunteering at the homeless shelter that was near where Denver “lived,” and the result was a NY Times Bestseller called Same Kind Of Different As Me.
After Debbie was gone, the men spent a total of 9 ½ years travelling and telling their story. The book stayed on the NYT list for over three years, and I consider my copy that is autographed by both of them to be one of my dear treasures. This is because until Denver met Ron, he was illiterate. And, if Denver had never invaded Ron’s life, he would have remained relationally illiterate. They were able to raise millions for homeless shelters all over America, and to stir people to do more than write checks.
I longed for this most unusual story to be made into a film, and was ambivalent about my desire for a couple of reasons. The first was that many faith-based movies are cheesy, poorly filmed, poorly acted, lack continuity, and I didn’t want to see it ruined. The other was that the story was so unusual I couldn’t imagine that they could find anyone who could even come close to what it was like to hear Ron and Denver tell their story.
I am glad I was wrong about my misgivings, and I got my wish. Same Kind Of Different As Me is playing in Madison, Huntsville, and Decatur, and it delivers. Several of the people in it are Academy Award winners or nominees, and it is anything but cheesy.
Greg Kinnear, who was nominated for an Academy Award, plays the part of Ron Hall and he nails it. Academy Award Winner Renée Zellweger plays the part of Debbie, and I have rarely seen someone speak at times more clearly without saying a word. Djimon Hounsou, one of those actors that you have seen a zillion times but perhaps didn’t know his name, is compelling as Denver. Academy Award Winner John Voight is superb as Ron’s alcoholic father, whose redemption is nearly as touching as Denver’s. The chemistry between all of them works, and the bottom line is a movie that preaches powerfully about the power of love without being preachy.
One last production note: a businessman in Mississippi had sold his flagship company for more than 100 million dollars, and was planning on investing the proceeds. Instead, he felt God would not leave him alone until the proceeds from the sale went toward the production of the film. A true step of faith, and a good lesson that reminds us all that ultimately we own nothing, whether we are rich or poor. The gospel mission that was transformed for the movie has remained transformed, and the community around it has been, as well. All of this was Debbie Hall’s dream, and Denver was the man she saw in a dream before they ever met. Go see it. It will be worth your time and your money.