Before you venture into the cliché white savior/“magical negro” double whammy that is the trailer for the Renee Zellweger/Greg Kinnear/Djimon Hounsou film Same Kind of Different Is Me, do note that of course one cannot judge a film off its trailer, and perhaps once it’s in theaters those viewers drawn to this kind of thing will be hit with the ol’ switcheroo, presented with an actually woke movie after expecting one that is “fake woke,” as my colleague Clover Hope described it.
Ha, probably not, though. It’s based on the 2009 bestseller Same Kind of Different As Me: A Modern-Day Slave, an International Art Dealer, and the Unlikely Woman Who Bound Them Together, which tells the true story of the friendship between co-authors Ron Hall (the art dealer) and Denver Moore (the “modern-day slave”—dude—a former homeless man and the son of Louisiana sharecroppers), and was published by Thomas Nelson, the conservative Christian imprint of HarperCollins. Hall and his wife Deborah were Christians volunteering at a soup kitchen in the ‘90s when they met Moore, and as the story goes, her last wish as she was dying of cancer was for Hall and Moore to become friends. (She died in 2000; the line Zellweger says in the trailer about dreaming about “a poor wise man who changes the city” is paraphrased from an actual quote in the book, except in it, Deborah says she is told in the dream by God to find him.)
I personally would like to ask God what did Djimon Hounsou ever do to deserve this trailer, and these lines? It paints the story as one in which a “dangerous” homeless man, “Moore,” comes into the Hall’s lives as a pitiful magic guy whose presence basically seems to bring them together so they can finally have sex again, or something to that effect. In the book and supposedly in reality, Hall’s friendship helped Moore turn his life around, overcoming a life of “hobo”’ing to become an “artist, public speaker, and volunteer for homeless causes” before his death in 2012 at the age of 75. (Here’s a wild obituary in which Hall seems to have a very othering perspective of Moore! And here’s a GoodReads review in which someone who read it says that twice Hall refers to a woman as “the fat chick.” How Christian!)
The screenplay was written by Ron Hall, Alexander Foard and Michael Carney, and the director is Michael Carney, a Christian whose only other title is a short called Jew, about an Orthodox Jewish boxer who’s attacked by anti-semites at his gym as other anti-semites vandalize his synagogue. Was Carney like, “Hey, Kinnear, act like you hate Hounsou even more; Hounsou, can you make yourself sound more magical? Thanks.”
I would ask how this racist claptrap even got made, but I know how. At least Paramount, who’s releasing it, seems to know—its release has been pushed back twice. Look forward to this in Spring 2017, when we have... a new president.