365 Movies By Day Reviews of Movies I Watch that I Feel Like Writing About

13Apr/170

I Am Michael (2017)

Justin Kelly (King Cobra) goes for broke in the second feature film of his career leading an ensemble cast that includes current A-listers James Franco (127 Hours, Rise of the Planet of the Apes) and Emma Roberts (Celeste and Jesse Forever, We're the Millers) as well as the always underrated Zachary Quinto (Margin Call, Star Trek) and veteran Daryl Hannah (Wall Street, Splash) with a controversial true story that is very near and dear to me personally as person who identifies himself as a Christian and also someone who is completely okay with homosexuality, despite what The Bible and fundamental Christians feel about it. I am unwilling to get into a debate about my personal beliefs, but I have no problem sharing them with those who are willing to listen and want to hear my thoughts on this. In fact, this post could be as far removed from an actual movie as you might find on my blog. Of course, I will discuss the movie plenty, but I am also using this as an avenue to express my beliefs on a subject matter that I feel very strongly about. Even you're willing to listen, awesome. If you aren't, I'll simply say move on from this post and read the review on Roger Ebert's website instead to determine if this movie is for you.

This film takes place over a period of about a decade, just after the turn of the 21st century. The controversial true story depicts a gay activist Michael Glatze (Franco) who rejects his homosexuality and becomes a Christian pastor. He was such a notable figure at the time of radical change that he angered the lesbian gay bisexual transgender queer (LGBTQ) community in a major way. The movie begins with Glatze working for XY Magazine in San Francisco, CA. This is where he meets Benjie Nycum (Quinto). The two enter into a relationship together. Glaze later tries to convince his colleagues that the "gay identity" as it is understood is limiting and should be rejected. In 2001, the pair cofounded Young Gay America, a non-profit organization and in December 2004, established a bimonthly publication of the same name for youth while they were living in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The difference between XY Magazine and Young Gay America was that the former was primarily for gay men where the latter was for anybody who identified himself or herself as LGBTQ. The magazine became respected as a resource for high school and public libraries, youth groups, counselors, and parents. Many looked at the launch of YGA as a sign that the queer youth movement was beginning to take shape. The magazine attracted notability and received awards, including the National Role Model Award from Equality Forum, a major gay organization. So it would become quite a surprise and have profound ramifications when one of its two co-founders declared just three years after the magazine's launch that he was no longer gay. He went so far as to write an article on WorldNet Daily announcing that he had converted to Christianity, denouncing his homosexuality. Now, as a conservative Christian, he began to state that homosexuality is a sickness and that he opposed LGBTQ rights (two things that I vehemently disagree with).

Now even though Franco has done some outrageous and controversial movies when the genre is comedy (The Interview, This Is the End, Sausage Party) that can cause your to roll your eyes and he even question his legitimacy as an actor, his approach to his more serious movies (As I Lay Dying, Child of God) and especially ones based on true stories (Milk, 127 Hours) cannot be discredited in the least. He's one of the most talented persons in Hollywood these days as he as shown that he can successfully write, direct, produce, and act in major motion pictures. In his most serious role to date, Franco proves that he is all in on telling the story of Michael Glatze with due diligence and total respect for the man's life.

I Am Michael is a subdued movie that tries to comprehend and explain Glatze's journey to becoming ex-gay. What I appreciated most about the movie was that he didn't play sides. Kelly gave equal attention to Glatze's time before and after his conversion. This story is one that makes me sad. Glatze makes mention to the yearnings he still has towards men but had worked hard to suppress them. While he became a hero in Christian circles, he became enemy number one to the LGBTQ community. All of this is brought on by a health scare. When he believes he has developed the heart condition that killed his father, his fear of death and his yearning for more from his life leads him into what can only be described as a conversion experience. The health scare has Michael worrying about the fate of his immortal soul. He turns to the Bible for solace and answers but doesn’t become a conservative overnight.

***Sidebar***

My sidebar consists of the problem that I have with the Christian view towards homosexuality, particularly how people interpret what the Bible says about it. I've been a Christian my entire life and while there have been certain times when I haven't been as close to God as I would have liked to be, I still prided myself on knowing the difference between right and wrong and, much more often than not, doing what is right. I believe in the mantra "do to others as you would have them do to you" (Luke 6:31). I can think of thousands of ways in which I could hurt others that I pass on. I could think of thousands of ways that would bring shame to myself and, like everyone, I have sinned over and over and over. And when I voice my opinion on homosexuality and gay rights, I have heard fundamental Christians say that I can't "pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe in. It's all or nothing." And to that, I disagree completely. As is stated in the opening scene of I Am Michael and the central question of what the film comes down to is a brief conversation between present day Michael (who is resolute in his beliefs against homosexuality) counseling a distraught young gay man who is unable to reconcile his religious beliefs with his sexuality. When Michael, an aspiring pastor, tells the young man that being gay is a false identity and doesn't really exist, the young man responds, "This isn't my choice. Why would I choose this?" This is followed by Michael saying, “If you’re a moral person, then you’ll choose heterosexuality in order to be with God.”

And, personally, I cannot think of anything more wrong. I believe you can be homosexual and be a Christian. I don't even think that those two characteristics of your identity should even be brought up in the same conversation. There is so much in this world that I am uncertain about. I honestly question my purpose just about every day of my life. I have my share of demons and have battled depression since I was 18. There have been times when I don't even know how I'm going to make it through a given day, week, month, or season. There's one part of my life that I've never had to question and I thank God all of the time for this. I am so grateful that I am heterosexual. While I do not believe that there is anything wrong with being gay, I refer back to what the young man in the opening of I Am Michael who says, "This isn't my choice. Why would I choose this?" I wholeheartedly agree. There are certain topics of conversation that I'm unwilling to engage in and this is one of them. I'm not in the business of trying to convince anyone of anything. I know that my God is a loving God who loves heterosexuals as much as he does homosexuals. And for fundamentalist Christians (as well as others) to throw the Bible in their faces is beyond me. Certain people are so set in their ways that they aren't even willing to listen to another viewpoint. And without getting into a heated debate (which I will not engage in), I'll simply say that the Bible was written, depending on who you talk to as many as 8000 years ago and maybe even longer. A lot can change in 8000 years. Let's dive in a little deeper...

There are references in the Bible to same-gender sexual behavior, and all of them are undeniably negative. But what is condemned in these passages is the violence, idolatry, and exploitation related to the behavior, not the same-gender nature of the behavior. There are references in the Bible to different-gender sexual behavior that are just as condemning for the same reasons. But no one claims that the condemnation is because the behavior was between a man and a woman.

Specific examples claiming that homosexual activity is a sin can be seen in a number of verses such as Genesis 19:1-13; Leviticus 18:22; 20:13; Romans 1:26-27; and 1 Corinthians 6:9. Romans 1:26-27 teaches specifically that homosexuality is a result of denying and disobeying God. When people continue in sin and unbelief, God “gives them over” to even more wicked and depraved sin in order to show them the futility and hopelessness of life apart from God. 1 Corinthians 6:9 proclaims that homosexual “offenders” will not inherit the kingdom of God. And again, for the third time in the last three paragraphs, I'll repeat the opening lines from the movie, "This isn't my choice. Why would I choose this?" I completely understand how some homosexuals have completely turned their backs to the church. I imagine I would do with the way that such hate as spewed at them for the genetic makeup they were born with. My God loves everyone the same. He does not love homosexuals or any more or any less than heterosexuals. Romans 1: 24-27 states that "God does not create a person with homosexual desires." Inferred is that the Bible tells us that people become homosexuals because of sin and ultimately because of their own choice. But even the context of this reference has to do with Gentiles rejecting the true God to pursue false gods (such as idolatry). And, the sexual behavior described is orgiastic, not that of a loving, mutual, caring, committed relationship. What is condemned is the worship of false gods.

But the Bible also talks about giving your most intimate self to another. Sexuality is a wonderful gift from God. It is more than the behavior of intercourse. It's the way we embody and express ourselves in the world. But we cannot love another person intimately without embodying that love, without using our bodies to love. And that does involve genital behavior. Sexual love is for the purpose of giving and receiving pleasure with our most intimate partner. It is a means of deepening and strengthening the intimate union that exists. This can only be healthy and good if our behavior is consistent with who we are and with whom we love, and when we are true to our own sexuality and orientation.

Homosexuals have received such ridicule, mocking, and pure hate from our society over the years, decades, and centuries that it is frankly sickening. When I was young and ignorant and didn't know any better, I said some derogatory things about homosexuality (though never specifically at someone who was gay) and for that, I feel remorse. Thankfully, as a society, we are slowly making waves and progressing(at least in America...I can't speak for the other countries as I, frankly, am uneducated enough to talk about that. But what President Obama did in his eight years as President regarding such things as gay marriage brought hope, peace, and genuine happiness to so many people who had felt deprived of this for so long. Unfortunately, as of January 2017, we appear to be taking some steps backward again and that makes me sad. I can understand how many homosexuals have rejected the church. If I were gay, even as a Christian, I may have done the same. Even has a heterosexual with so many friends (some who are very close to me) who are gay, I struggle with these same issues. I also see people who have denied themselves their entire lives of the attraction they have for members of the same sex because of their faith. The attractions that I have towards women and the intimate pleasures I take for granted with them when I see these devote homosexual Christians staying quiet to everyone or at least to everyone but their close group of friends and families is one of the most heartbreaking things I have seen in this world.

And for those wishing to dig further into what the Bible says homoerotic behavior, let's examine the fact that there wasn't even a word for "homosexual" or "homosexuality" in Hebrew or Greek. These words were created near the end of the 19th century (dozens of centuries after the Bible was written). What was sad about the sexual behavior of two people of the same sex was written well before the discovery of sexuality as an essential part of human sexuality in all its diversity. It cannot be properly claimed that the Bible says anything about homosexuality at all because the people who wrote the Bible didn't have the language for it, nor did they understand it.

But if you want to go even further and say that none of that matters because the Bible is the word of God and you have to take it for what it's worth, I'll say that that is your opinion. But I'll also bring up what the Bible says about marriage. And what it says about marriage isn't the way we treat marriage today and isn't how we'd want marriage to be treated today. In a marriage, we are equal with our partner. In the time of when the Bible was written, it was a patriarchal culture that assumed men were in control and women were subject to them. Marriage was not an equal partnership, but a matter of a man owning a woman or women as property. Women provided men companionship, children, and labor. While love between a man and a woman could exist, it was not the basis of a marriage. Is that really what we want our children to grow up thinking marriage is all about?

I am not, nor will I ever be, an expert on the Bible. I am a Christian. I feel like I am closer to God right now at age 41 than I have been in my entire life. Over the course of the last year, I would say that I've been experiencing a spiritual awakening. I won't go into the details of my past, but I am very comfortable with my relationship with God. I am not the happiest person in the world, but that's not God's fault. There are so many factors that have contributed to this and it's something that I'm working on and will continue to work on. But I will not let anyone convince me that homosexuality is a sin. I won't even listen or get into a conversation about it. If you agree with me, that's great. We don't need to have a conversation about it. If you don't agree with me, then that is your right. I'm certainly not interested in having a conversation about it. People who identify themselves as LGBTQ deserve to pursue happiness the same way straight people are able to. They shouldn't be shamed into thinking that loving a person that they choose to love is wrong. My God is a God of love. I'm thankful that he is a God of love and I am grateful for my relationship with God.

***End of Sidebar***

So Michael's change from being a pioneer for LGBTQ to an ultra-Christian conservative occurred because of a health scare. He worries about the afterlife and believes he will not go to heaven if he continues to partake in homosexual relationships. But even before this, he begins to question if his assumptions about being gay and being Christian. He wonders if the actually can coexist when, while creating a cross-country documentary with Bennett about homosexuality and faith, he witnesses a young gay man comforting a friend with a prayer on her behalf. But after the scare with his heart, his fear of death and desire to have more from his life is what leads him to his individual conversion experience.

Michael becomes just as vocal as he was about his belief that homosexuality is wrong as he was about his belief that homosexuality was okay when he was a younger man. He even involves himself in a committed relationship with the beautiful Rebekah (Roberts) while hiding from her many facts about his life before meeting her and only allowing her to see the parts that he wants her to see. There is an ambiguity in Michael that is as clear from the beginning as it is in the end, though the uncertainty takes many forms and we wonder if he's truthful in what he believes or if he's a fulfilling a self-prophecy, or if he's as confused about so many others are with regards to sexuality and faith. For many, I Am Michael will be the first experience of really seeing the pain of someone experiencing a divide between faith and homosexuality. For others, this will feel all too familiar. Can a person change their sexual orientation? Is it fair for someone to not experience the gift of intimacy because they are only attracted to members of the same sex? Are those who identify themselves as questions give into homosexuality activity indulging in sin? I know what my answers to each of these questions are. I do identify myself as a Christian and I don't believe homosexuality is a sin. Homosexuals should be treated the same way that heterosexuals are. They should not be treated differently because of their sexual attraction. Some of the kindest, gentlest, and best people I know are homosexuals. Some are open about and have no problem expressing it. Others are in denial and I have been close enough with some of these people to see the pain that they experience every day because they are homosexuals and they don't want to be. It completely breaks my heart in ways that sometimes I cannot explain without tears streaming down my face.

I Am Michael isn't an easy watch, but it's an important one. I encourage everyone to watch it, but do understand that this film is not for everyone.

Plot 9.5/10
Character Development 9/10
Character Chemistry 8/10
Acting 9/10
Screenplay 7.5/10
Directing 8/10
Cinematography 9/10
Sound 8/10
Hook and Reel 8/10
Universal Relevance 10/10
86%

Comments (0) Trackbacks (0)

No comments yet.


Leave a comment

No trackbacks yet.