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  • Writer's picturePopEntertainment

Father Stu (A Movie Review)

Updated: May 15, 2023


Starring Mark Wahlberg, Jacki Weaver, Mel Gibson, Teresa Ruiz, Malcolm McDowell, Niko Nicotera, Chiquita Fuller, Annet Mahendru, Faith Jefferies, Winter Ave Zoli, Colleen Camp, Cody Fern, Ned Bellamy, Alain Uy, Ronnie Gene Blevins, Larry Bagby, Michael Fairman, Danielle K. Golden, Annie Lee, Skip Howland, Carlos Leal, Aaron Moten and Grace Karman Graham.

Screenplay by Rosalind Ross.

Directed by Rosalind Ross.

Distributed by Sony Pictures Releasing. 124 minutes. Rated R.

The real problem with religious films is that they can be somewhat polarizing. For people who share the belief system of the film, they can be beautiful and profound. People who do not necessarily have the same beliefs can find them a bit preachy and manipulative.

And you know what? Sometimes both opinions can be true.

Father Stu is beautiful and profound and preachy and manipulative, all at the same time.

There is a real place and need for faith-based entertainment and Father Stu will undoubtedly find itself to be a welcome addition to that world. For people who are not so steeped in the religious aspects of the movie, it is also a tale of a not-so-good man redeeming himself while enduring a horrific illness.

However, despite having Mark Wahlberg as the star, I can’t really see Father Stu breaking out of the faith-based community to cross over to a wider audience. (Which is, of course, not to say that the faith-based audience isn’t large enough to make the film a reasonable success all on its own.)

Father Stu is based on a true story of a ne’er-do-well wannabe boxer who moves to Hollywood in a whimsical pursuit of film stardom. Instead of connecting as an actor he instead ends up cutting meats at a local supermarket deli counter. He spies a pretty customer and follows her to her church, using the idea of God and religion to pick her up. However, when he is injured in a drunken motorcycle accident, suddenly he realizes that perhaps he should take religion more seriously.

Yes, this is the rare story where a man finds his calling to become a priest by essentially stalking a woman.

Then, once he has found his calling and the will to help others, it is all essentially taken from him when he contracts a rare, incurable, debilitating disease.

Now, undoubtedly in an attempt to show the scope of his redemption, in the early scenes Stu is portrayed as a pretty hideous human being – cocky, angry, hard-headed, vain, insecure, selfish, alcoholic, violent, slightly stupid, and certainly not someone you’d want to spend much time with. And his estranged dad – played with maximum cynical disdain by Mel Gibson – is all those things and worse.

The story of Stu’s conversion to a being a better, more giving, more godly man will be quite moving undoubtedly to certain audiences. I saw another film review which referred to Father Stu as “Mark Wahlberg’s two-hour argument for Catholicism.” Of course, for those of us not looking to be converted, that can be a double-edged sword and make Father Stu a little hard to sit through.

There is also a certain amount of inherent drama in the fact that Father Stu has two stars who are arguably in need of some sort of redemption playing characters who seem to be irredeemable but do find salvation in God’s gaze. (Gibson in particular, but Wahlberg has some dark skeletons in his closet as well.)

However, I’m not going to lie – a short clip of the real Father Stu being interviewed over the closing credits was more compelling and humane and human than anything which his cinematic counterpart said in the entire length of the film. Therefore, even though this biopic is certainly imperfect, I am interested in learning even more about Father Stu – which I suppose is the job of the film.

Well, one of the jobs, anyway.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2022 All rights reserved. Posted: April 13, 2022.

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