This Easter, Mark Wahlberg is providing us a present as candy as a field of Peeps or a chocolate rabbit — and simply as nutritious.
“Father Stu” is a loving biopic of a one-time real-life hell-raising, blue-collar hustler who someway turns into a white-collared Roman Catholic priest. So why is it finally as hole as that chocolate bunny?
You can immediately see why Wahlberg — the star, government producer and financier — was attracted. “Father Stu” is correct in his wheelhouse, from his character’s love of beginner boxing to his meathead humor. And as an ardent Catholic, that is his Hollywood message movie flex, his “The Passion of the Christ.” He even introduced Mel Gibson alongside.
But Wahlberg is just miscast, out of his depth, and the overly lengthy, poorly edited “Father Stu” by no means finds its rhythm. Good at humor, candy with remorse however the movie paradoxically finally ends up brief in relation to an important half: dealing with religion itself.
The movie relies on the extraordinary lifetime of the true Stuart Long and audiences first meet him as a hardscrabble boxer in Montana. His profession within the ring has stalled and so has his immune system. “Your body is telling you not to fight,” a health care provider tells him.
Naively, Long packs up and goes to Hollywood to make his mark. “I was born to perform. It just took time to find my stage,” he tells his mom (Jacki Weaver, nice).
Long has his demons — a youthful brother who died too younger and his mother and father’ divorce. “Last thing I need is another father to fail for,” he says later as he closes in on the priesthood.
While working in a grocery store meat division and dreaming about his large break, he spies at some point a beautiful woman (Teresa Ruiz), a Catholic Sunday college trainer. Impressing her leads him to the church.
A horrific bike accident that places him right into a coma takes him even additional: To a seminary the place he decides God’s plan for him is to be a priest, one who can join with these on the margins.
It’s been a protracted wind-up to the center of “Father Stu.” Is this a real conversion? Can this foul-mouthed, violence-prone, whiskey-drinking and skirt-chasing antiauthoritarian boy-man grow to be a person of the material? “You can’t fool God,” he’s advised.
But God has one final check: Stuart develops an especially uncommon autoimmune illness that mimics the signs of ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, and for which there is no such thing as a remedy. Stu can punch again along with his solely weapon this time — grace.
Fitting for a personality whose physique fails him, Wahlberg alters his. The actor rapidly gained 30 kilos throughout the brief shoot to painting Long in his later years, and the digital camera reveals it off, giving Wahlberg the prospect to hitch the record of Actors Who Have Undergone Extreme Weight Changes For a Role (Matthew McConaughey, Tom Hanks, Anne Hathaway and membership president Christian Bale, amongst them).
But weight achieve can’t disguise that Wahlberg is just not a adequate actor to painting the depth and solemnity of conversion or devotion. (“You love me… but you don’t want me?“ he asks God in a truly awful line reading.) And the script doesn’t either: Screenwriter and director Rosalind Ross inserts a hokey vision of the Virgin Mary cradling a bleeding Long on the road moments after his crash.
Wahlberg’s shortcomings stick out especially because he’s surrounded by very good actors, including Malcolm McDowell as a rector, Aaron Moten as a soulful fellow seminarian and Gibson. Perhaps it’s a little too soon to hear the disgraced Braveheart star ranting onscreen in an alcoholic haze about Nazis, but there’s no denying he’s a fearsome actor.
Ross — not coincidentally Gibson’s real-life partner — has made interesting cinematic decisions, like lingering on scenes that really add nothing. One in which Long checks into a seedy Hollywood motel room lasts longer than a key later one in which we finally see Long ministering to prisoners. Ross also hews close to formulas, like the always seemingly necessary workout montage. Only in this case the montage is of Wahlberg in various moments of worship, holding prayer beads — while sweating.
There’s always something a little off about “Father Stu,” a way that the filmmakers have taken a variety of liberties with an actual life to make it further saintly. But I’m with Billy Joel: “I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints/The sinners are much more fun.”
“Father Stu,” a Sony Pictures launch that’s in theaters beginning Wednesday, is rated R for “language throughout.” Running time: 124 minutes. One star out of 4.
MPAA definition of R: Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying guardian or grownup guardian.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits
JOIN THE CONVERSATION