MOVIES: 'Utopia,' film with Christian values, attracts A-list cast

Baptist Press
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Posted: Sep 02, 2011 4:52 PM
KANSAS CITY, Kan. (BP)--Verbose in his faith, gentle in demeanor, David Cook is an inspirational speaker, a renowned sports psychologist, and the screenwriter of the new film "Seven Days in Utopia," starring Robert Duvall and Lucas Black.

In his film he uses sports as an effective metaphor: Although the setting is the world of golf, the story quickly reveals itself to be concerned with forgiveness, mercy and grace.

The G-rated film -- which opens this weekend -- begins with a young pro golfer (Black) going through a meltdown. Driving off in a huff after a bad display on the course, he winds up in a small Texas town called Utopia. There he is taken under wing by a local eccentric (Duvall) who helps him find his direction. Also in the cast are Melissa Leo, Brian Geraghty, Kathy Baker and Deborah Ann Woll.

In a recent phone interview, I asked Cook how an independent, low-budget film containing Christian concepts attracted such an impressive Hollywood lineup.

"I think the story is what got to Robert Duvall," Cook said. "We already had Lucas Black, who happens to be an amazing golfer, as well. Since we wanted this to be the most authentic golf movie ever made, we needed a real golfer in the role. It paid off. I found the golf scenes were spectacular because of Lucas. He could be a pro if he wanted. But when Duvall said yes, a domino effect began in Hollywood: 'If he's in it, I'm in it.'

"There are some in Hollywood who are a little afraid of faith-based movies, but when one steps out to say 'I'm doing it,' others are thinking it must be OK. I think we're finding more of the walls being broken down, where actors will step out and be involved."

Following is a partial transcript of my interview:

BOATWRIGHT: One of the themes in the movie has to do with accidents not really being accidents.

COOK: If you're a man or woman of faith, you believe that there's an orchestrator behind everything. We're not just a random, flotational planet out in the middle of nowhere. I kind of describe it this way: Many people think that life is like the back of a tapestry, a meaningless meandering of thread. But for the Believer, though it might look like that at times, God gives us glimpses over the top and we get to see the weaving that's being done. Those glimpses are interactions with God. Some people call those coincidences; we just call them appointments with the Creator. We get to see enough of the tapestry to know that this is not merely a random mess.

BOATWRIGHT: What is the main message you want filmgoers to gain from this movie?

COOK: That there's more. Everyone is looking for more in their life: more purpose, more fulfillment. I think a lot of people are just empty. So, I hope the movie gives them direction and indicates where that more can be found. And I think the side aspect to this movie is that it's going to teach people great principles about performing. But also, how to keep performance in perspective. The purpose of the movie is to open a door to the possibilities of more with God. It's not heavy-handed, but I think we did just that. And at the end of the movie, there's an opportunity for people to continue the journey. We want this movie to be the beginning, not the end. Jesus used parables, He used word pictures. Movies are modern-day parables and if we use them in a right way, then we move people close to God rather than farther away.

BOATWRIGHT: Are you planning a sequel?

COOK: I have written several chapters just for me, because it meant something to me. But God has to lead that. You can't do it just because it sounds like a good idea. That said, in my heart, I do think there will be a follow up. We'll see.

For Phil Boatwright's full review of the film, visit http://www.previewonline.org/. Boatwright reviews films from a Christian perspective for Baptist Press and is the author of "Movies: The Good, The Bad, and the Really, Really Bad," available on Amazon.com. He also writes about Hollywood for previewonline.org.

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