The Song

Alan Powell as Jed King in THE SONG.

The Song is a major-key Christian movie with remarkably high production values and an interesting premise. It's based on the biblical book "Song of Songs" (also known as "The Song of Solomon") and generally attributed by believers to the second son of King David and Bathsheba. (For purposes of this discussion we'll leave aside modern theories about the actual authorship of the piece.)

Solomon, you may remember, received from God the gift of unsurpassed wisdom. Still, he couldn't seem to keep the commandments. He murdered to acquire his throne and had a real problem with lust. He's said to have taken more than 700 wives and 300 concubines.

The Song

Grade: 83

Cast: Alan Powell, Ali Faulkner, Caitlin Nicol-Thomas, Danny Vinson, Aaron Benward, Kenda Benward, Jude Ramsey, Gary Jenkins, Landon Marshall

Director: Richard Ramsey

Rating: PG-13, for thematic elements including some substance abuse, smoking and rude references

Running time: 116 minutes

Whether or not King Solomon wrote "Song of Songs," it is undeniably a fascinating and beautiful poem (or collection of poems) that examines the existential meaning of life. It's sexy, sad and at times borderline nihilistic; it's most often received as an allegory about God's love for the people of Israel, or Christ's love for the church.

Anyway, we hear some haunting and lovely passages from the work as we watch the story of Kentucky-based singer-songwriter Jed King (Alan Powell, who performs with a Christian rock band called Anthem Lights) unfold on the screen. Jed is talented, but when the film begins he's standing in the shadows of his very famous father, David King (Christian singer-songwriter Aaron Benward), a Waylon Jennings lookalike who has his own problems with abstaining from fleshly delight.

David's dalliance with Bethany (Kenda Benward, Aaron's real-life wife) leads to the breakup of two families and an abortion, but there's some mitigation when the couple marry and settle down, bringing David (yes, the allusion is on-the-nose, but what do you expect?) a little solace before his relatively early death. The story picks up a few years later with Jed playing small clubs where he's booked primarily on the strength of his father's name. He blames his manager Stan (Gary Jenkins) for his foundering career. Stan turns it back on him by saying that, despite his talent, Jed will never be successful until he finds his own voice. Stan's done with him. As a parting gift he gives Jed one last gig -- there's a nearby winery that needs an act to play at a tasting event.

Immediately after Jed arrives at the festival (parking in the one space marked "No Parking," which might or might not be a character signifier) he meets and is enthralled by the vineyard owner's daughter Rose (Ali Faulkner). To Jed, one of the most attractive things about Rose is that she not only is completely ignorant of his famous father, she can't even tell The Beatles from The Byrds. He's smitten, enough to ask her crusty father, Shep (Danny Vinson) -- who has heard of David King and his low-down rowdy ways -- for permission to date her.

Soon, Jed is asking Rose to marry him and building her dream chapel in which to hold the ceremony. And the morning after their wedding night, he plays her a song that came to him in a dream the night before.

This song soon launches his career. Soon, Jed's life is a series of lucrative recording dates and tours. As he begins to pile up the treasure, he's gone from home for longer and longer stretches, which puts a strain on his relationship with Rose. But he can't just stop -- the tour's going international. And Stan (who's back, with a vengeance) has just hired a new opening act, a tattooed fiddler-vocalist named Shelby Bale (Caitlin Nicol-Thomas) who is "spiritual" but not religious.

Obvious stuff happens, and sometimes the points are underlined a little too heavily with verses from the "Song of Songs" -- in voice-over, Jed intones, "More bitter than death is the woman who is a snare," after he slinks away from Shelby's hotel room -- but there are times when something like nuance breaks in on The Song. Jed and Rose's courtship is remarkably chaste, but they drink wine and obviously look forward to the time when they can, as Brian Wilson sang, "say goodnight and stay together."

And the music is well presented, if not particularly memorable. Powell is a better musician than actor, but he makes Jed a credible person, pious but not priggish. Similarly, Faulkner manages to make some stilted lines feel plausible as the too-perfect Rose.

But the most vivid screen presence is Nicol-Thomas as Shelby, who looks and acts the part of the insatiable black-eyed hussy.

While weirdly watchable, and alert to the ways that human beings actually negotiate with the world (the montage scenes with David and Bethany before the adult Jed arrives on the scene are emotionally freighted in a way that belies their obligatory nature), The Song ultimately fails as a crossover evangelism tool in that it's hard to imagine it even grazing the heathen consciousness. But the choir will no doubt enjoy parts of it.

MovieStyle on 09/26/2014