Appearances are Deceiving

Same Kind of Different As Me

Excerpt from Production Notes for Same Kind of Different As Me

As written in this month’s cover article of niNe. magazine, a major theme of the feature film Same Kind of Different as Me is that of giving and helping others in a sacrificial way. But, another theme is the deception of appearances.

Ron Hall (Greg Kinnear) is a well-to-do member of Dallas’ privileged society and art scene who sells million-dollar-plus paintings. But beneath the veneer of his perfect life lies a corrosive secret – he’s grown apart from his wife and becomes involved with another woman.

Denver Moore (Djimon Hounsou) is a homeless man who acts out in enraged fury to keep others at arm’s length. A weary soul who’s lived nearly his entire life as a modern-day slave, he nurses deep wounds and hides a fount of wisdom and a heart of joy and compassion under his intense exterior.

Debbie Hall (Renée Zellweger), Ron’s long-suffering wife, glides above the circumstances of her loveless marriage to keep up appearances for her son and daughter and her influential friends. But then she’s forced to confront her husband’s physical abandonment and emotional infidelity with a warrior’s resolve, vowing to fight for her marriage, and make a difference in her community, with a strength and passion few could have imagined she had inside her.

What the three central characters discover, and what the audience learns in watching their true-life story unspool, is that it’s a limiting, losing proposition to judge a book by its cover – no matter how pristine or tattered it appears.

The real-life Ron Hall wrote the book on which the film is based and co-wrote the script.

“I was a pretty bad guy, not a very good husband for several years, and that’s an important part of our story,” Hall recalls. “To watch those scenes replayed after I had tried to put them out of my head for so many years – it was opening up an old wound, so those were very, very painful for me. I had to walk away from the camera and the monitors on a number of occasions.”

Ron is challenged by Debbie to not only volunteer at a local homeless shelter, but to push through Denver’s walls and develop a true friendship with the man with whom he shares little in common.

“I don’t think there’s a character more inclined to judge a book by its cover than Ron,” explains co-screenwriter Alexander Foard. “But as his story progresses, he has his world completely rearranged, and at the end of the day finds himself with a much healthier marriage, and this friendship that’s going to last a lifetime.

“Debbie once told me, about Denver, ‘Don’t judge him; just serve him’,” Hall says. “In fact, Denver told me one time, when he caught me judging some people on the streets, ‘Mr. Ron, the courthouse is full of judges. God doesn’t need any more judges. He needs some service. That’s why you here’.”

That dollop of wisdom is pure and vintage Denver. As much as he is helped by the Halls through their persistence in convincing him that they truly love him, the real story and the film make pretty clear that as the blessings get passed around among the three of them, Denver may have handed out the most.

Denver’s message: As Moore himself put it in the book on which the film is based: “There’s something I learned when I was homeless: Our limitation is God’s opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothin you can do, that’s when God takes over.”