Shack (Lionsgate, 2017) – Director: Stuart
Hazeldine. Writers: John Fusco, Andrew Lanham & Destin Daniel
Cretton (s/p). William P. Young, Wayne Jacobsen & Brad Cummings
(book). Stars: Sam Worthington, Octavia Spencer, Tim McGraw, Radha
Mitchell, Derek Hamilton, Megan Charpentier & Gage Munroe. Color,
Rated PG-13, 132 minutes.
searching for that element I affectionately call “The Wow Factor”
in a movie, it’s sometimes surprising to find it in a film
classified as a “Christian Drama.” But that’s
what The Shack had in spades. The story, though a
little long, (two hours and 12 minutes) only lagged in a few places
but was interesting throughout. It never contradicted the Catholic
dogma I was brought up in so much as interpreted it in a very simple,
Phillips (Carson Reaume later, Worthington) is the product of an
abusive father (Nicholas Holmes later, Hamilton), an “elder” of
their church, and an abused mother (Tanya Hubbard). He leaves home at
age 13 and starts a life of his own.
He has his own
family, wife Nan (Mitchell), son Josh (Munroe) and daughters Kate
(Charpentier) and Missy (Amélie Eve). Missy is the apple of his
eye. They all go to church on Sunday, but
Mack is noticeable as the only adult who doesn’t sing with the
One weekend, Mack
takes his children on a camping trip to Wallowa Lake (somewhere in
Oregon) and things are going great. Missy is happily coloring at a
picnic table while Josh and Kate row a canoe on the lake. That is,
until Kate stands up in the canoe to show off for her Dad and
overturns the canoe, dumping Josh into the water under it. His life
vest is caught in the canoe webbing. Mack rescues Josh and uses CPR
to bring him back, but while everyone’s back is turned, a serial
killer makes off with Missy.
investigation ends at an abandoned shack in the woods where they find
Missy’s blood-stained red dress. Mack goes into a depressed state,
Kate blames herself and becomes distant, and the whole family is
rocked and changed by the horror and loss.
Then one wintery
day, Nan is off with Josh and Kate, and Mack is clearing the snow
from his driveway when he slips and falls, temporarily losing
consciousness. When he come to, he sees a letter in his open mailbox,
no postage, no return address, and no tracks in the snow. It’s
an invitation from “Papa” (the name Nan uses to refer to God) to
spend the weekend at that very same shack where he found Missy’s
His best friend
Willie (McGraw) offers to go with him, but after sending Willie to
get fishing poles, Mack drives away alone. On the way, he nearly gets
killed in a crash with an 18-wheel trailer truck. Willie packed a
revolver in the car “just in case” and Mack is sure he’s going
to meet his daughter’s killer at the shack, but no one’s there.
He throws an angry fit and lies down on the floor. A noise rouses
him. It’s just a deer. He walks outside and sees a man approaching
(Avraham Aviv Alush). Instead of retracting in fear of the man
pointing a gun at him, he beckons Mack to follow him into a sunlit,
flowered place where the shack is fully repaired and furnished and
has a rambling rose climbing its porch.
Mack is stupefied.
This should be snow-covered Oregon, but every kind of flower is
blooming here from every season. Inside the shack he meets a woman he
knew briefly as a child who introduces herself as Elousia (Spencer)
and a beautiful Japanese woman named Sarayu (Sumire Matsubara).
Mack’s amazement increases when he figures out that Elousia is
“Papa” and the author of the note he received. The man is
introduced as her son and Sarayu is introduced as his “Spirit.”
Together, the “Trinity” work to heal Mack’s troubled soul and
change his life for the better. Jesus leads him to a cave where he
encounters Sophia (Alice Braga) who calls herself “Wisdom” and
Papa, as a father figure (Graham Greene), leads him to where Missy’s
body is hidden.
But did all this
really happen? Mack wakes up in a hospital. The crash was real!
The Shack is
based on the book of the same name by William P. Young written in
2007. The movie is all about Mack’s burden and how it is lifted by
supernatural powers of healing. It is remarkably well acted, and
dazzlingly photographed. The special effects are magical. The only
thing that causes this film to pale are the oft-times mumbled or
whispered dialogue which becomes unintelligible. Octavia Spencer is
marvelous. Sam Worthington, even with his unheard lines, was a
Pandora’s box of mixed emotions. And if I ever met Jesus, I would
like him to be like Aviv Alush. As I said at the beginning of my
review. The Shack left me saying, “Wow!”
The Oyster Bar at
Grand Central Station is a New York icon and one of my favorite
restaurants. With the Lenten period beginning I decided that a
familiar place would be a great place to start.
entrance is entirely glass surmounted by a graceful arch where the
restaurant’s name is seen in elegant black letters with the menu
posted between the doors under the familiar logo “Oyster” in
blue, green, yellow, orange, red and purple letters.
ceilings are lined with incandescent bulbs and tiled in a herringbone
pattern. The restaurant is a-buzz with conversation and it seems like
every table is occupied. After a short wait, my lovely dining
companion and I were seated opposite each other with a stereotypical
red-checked tablecloth between us. We toasted each other with a Kir
Royal (champagne and cassis) and a Beefeater martini while we set to
the task of reading the menu.
The menu at The
Oyster Bar is a large single sheet of paper with food on one side,
drinks on the other. Anyone reading it for the first time is
mesmerized by the baffling amount of choices, for it seems like every
fish in the sea is listed, as well as soups, stews, salads, desserts,
sides and about 30 to 40 species of oyster. It took a little while
for us to decide. Though the lobster cocktail was enticing, my
companion chose the jumbo shrimp with yellow tomatoes, fresh
mozzarella and basil pesto oil. It was beautifully arranged on the
plate and looked like a lighthouse manned by shrimp. The yellow
tomatoes were crunchy and fresh, not as acidic as red tomatoes. The
mozzarella was creamy and soft and the shrimp perfect.
I chose oysters
Rockefeller, a favorite of mine. The spinach, cheese and seasonings
combined with the fresh oysters in a savory, slightly salty mix that
sometimes took two forks full to eat. They were excellent. I ordered
a glass of chardonnay to go with the main course.
Our two main courses
were broiled monk fish with jade blend rice and string beans for the
lady and broiled shad roe with roasted tomato and string beans for
myself. People say that monk fish is “the poor man’s lobster,”
but I would not denigrate it that way. It has a much better flavor
than lobster and you don’t have to work hard to eat it. The texture
is similar to lobster, but that’s where the similarity ends. The
rice was a fluffy mixture of brown and white rice, the string beans
crisp and garlicky. But my special treat was the shad roe. Though it
looks like some internal organ from an autopsy on the plate, the two
pods contain millions of tiny beige fish eggs with a nutty, only
slightly fishy, flavor. It tastes even better with bacon but, this is
Lent. This was my companion’s first taste (and sight) of the dish
and, after a sample, she asked for a second. I might have made a
Delmonico’s experience, I think my lady has become hooked on baked
Alaska, because she ordered the flourless Kahlua chocolate baked
Alaska with blood orange compote – a tangy, sweet twist on the
original recipe. Since I don’t order it often I thought it was time
for me to again experience a New York cheese cake. It’s a dense,
creamy cheesecake, simply made and served with a plume of raspberry
sauce on the plate. I had almost forgotten how good it is.
After a while, the
crowd around us thinned out and we didn’t have to raise our voices
to be heard above them. We enjoyed our coffee and double espresso
while finishing our desserts. The best part of dining at the Oyster
Bar is that neither of us had to go out in the cold to travel home.
The subway is linked to Grand Central Station by a separate passage
at the top of the ramp. Just another reason why The Oyster Bar has
seen me so many times and will in the future. For the Dinner and a Movie archive, clickhere.