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Hope Floats
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.




EXTRAORDINARY MEASURES (A-3, PG): John and Aileen Crowley (Brendan Fraser and Keri Russell) are the parents of three children: John, Jr. (Sam M. Hall), Megan (Meredith Droeger) and Patrick (Diego Velazquez). But Megan, eight, and Patrick, six, have a congenital condition called Pompe disease–similar to muscular dystrophy–where the body lacks a certain enzyme that breaks down glycogen, a stored form of sugar needed for energy. This causes the body’s organs to enlarge and shut down. The life expectancy for children with this condition is two years.

As Megan zips around the house in her special wheelchair under the care of Aileen and around-the-clock nurses, Patrick is slowing down. John works at a pharmaceutical company that seeks to develop a cure, but it is slow going. When he discovers the advanced work of Dr. Robert Stonehill (Harrison Ford), a doctor at Nebraska University, on a treatment protocol, John goes into overdrive.

Stonehill is convinced his work in enzyme research will yield the best chance for a cure, but he is underfunded. John promises to come up with the half million dollars needed, but falls short. Stonehill suggests that he and John create their own lab and they go into business but struggle to find funding. As the children become sicker, pressure mounts for a treatment. Then John is forced into one of the most difficult decisions a parent and provider for a family with very sick children must make.

This based-on-a-true-story medical drama depicts how decisions are made regarding the development of medicines and treatments: profitability. Yes, the science comes into it, and it does take millions to carry out research. But at one point John and Aileen upset the corporation when they bring Pompe families together: They put a human face on the illness. So does the film.

Harrison Ford, whose curmudgeonly character in the film is a composite of real-life doctors and scientists, is the executive producer for the film, which means he put up most of the money for it to be made. He was inspired to do so after reading The Wall Street Journal writer Geeta Anand’s 2006 book The Cure: How a Father Raised $100 Million and Bucked the Medical Establishment in a Quest to Save His Children.

Extraordinary Measures is the first movie for a new subsidiary of CBS–CBS Films–based in Los Angeles. It’s a moving and inspiring story, but does not require a box of tissues to get through. This restraint on the part of director Tom Vaughan (What Happens in Vegas) is evident in the heartfelt performances of Fraser and Russell; it makes them believable. The real-life Crowleys, who are Catholic, obviously have medical insurance and means. Hopefully, their struggle, and the struggles of parents like them, will be a voice for those who do not have access to such breakthrough therapies.

This is a story of courage and risk–and the first medical miracle drama I have seen that ends on a literally sweet "sugar high." Mature themes, brief language.



PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE (not yet rated, R): Precious (Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe in her breakout role) is a poor, overweight teenage girl in ill-fitting clothes who lives with her mother, Mary (Mo’Nique, The Mo’Nique Show), in Harlem. She is far behind in school. She is also the mother of a Down syndrome child and expecting another baby after being raped by her father when she was 13 and again at 16. Precious can barely read. Her mother is a cruel tyrant who is angry, not at her partner, but at Precious for "stealing" the father away from her.

Precious drops out of public school but wants to get her G.E.D. Her former principal tells her about a school for young women in similar circumstances. There she encounters a teacher, Ms. Rain (Paula Patton, Swing Vote), who takes the students where they are and challenges them to be all they can be.

But Mary tells Precious to forget school and to sign up for welfare. Precious continues at school but discovers a kind social worker, Mrs. Weiss (Mariah Carey) at the welfare office. Mrs. Weiss draws out Precious’s story throughout the film, so that by the end, we are amazed by Precious and can even feel a little compassion for her mother.

Precious: Based on the Novel "Push" by Sapphire is about the physical, emotional and sexual abuse of a child by both parents. Sapphire’s Precious is a composite character based on the downtrodden but strong young women whom Sapphire knew in New York. The whole system of family, school, state and Church seems to have failed Precious. But individuals, within an extended community, reach out with care to offer support to the young girl, who finds her inner strength.

Audiences would never know that the filmmakers are almost all newcomers. Even Lee Daniels, who produced the 2001 film Monster’s Ball that won a Best Actress Oscar for Halle Barry, is a first-time director here.

Precious won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award at Sundance in 2009. It is a challenging film to watch, but so filled with amazing performances–especially by Sidibe, the chillingly terrifying Mo’Nique, an almost unrecognizable Mariah Carey and a sweet Lenny Kravitz as a nurse–combined with themes of life and hope, that this is sure to be an awards contender. Mature themes, child abuse, sexual assault, language.

2012 (A-3, PG-13): The calendar of the ancient Mayans predicts that the world will end in 2012. Director Roland Emmerich is a master at apocalyptic disaster movies (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow) and 2012 is no exception to his penchant for big, loud films.

Scientists observe that the earth’s crust is heating because of a solar flare in 2010 and predict a cataclysmic event in 2012. One of the scientists, Adrian Helmsley (Chiwetel Ejiofor), rushes to tell Carl Anheuser (Oliver Platt), the White House chief of staff, of this startling discovery. This starts a chain of events aimed at preserving a select number of humanity.

Heads of state work with China to build seven immense super vessels, or "arks," that all together will carry 400,000 people. The question is: Who decides who will be saved and who will preserve the world’s cultures? Will it be by lottery? Will it be to the highest bidder?

A few years earlier, a writer, Jackson Curtis (John Cusack), published a novel with a similar prediction. Helmsley owns the book and is intrigued by the question the author proposes: Is it possible for someone to give up his or her life for another? Willy-nilly, the fate of Curtis and his family merges with that of Helmsley as the disaster rocks the earth.

2012 is a film that is too big for itself. The 1998 film Deep Impact had many similar themes as the waters threatened to submerge the earth, but more effectively used a sparer, less frantic approach. Besides an improbable plot and points that do not connect, 2012 is almost three hours long.

But 2012 has many more interesting themes in addition to human generosity; it is a modern reimagining of the biblical story of Noah and the flood (Genesis 6:5-9:28). There is also a John the Baptist figure (Woody Harrelson) and much religious imagery.

This is a scary story, but not good enough to be truly terrifying. More than apocalyptic, 2012 is about nature’s way of renewing itself on the face of the earth–and God is present. Language and peril.

THE JAY LENO SHOW (NBC, weeknights): The much-hyped variety show is flat, dull and mostly disappointing, except for the "headlines" and "Jay Walking" segments imported from The Tonight Show that he helmed for 17 years.

THE OPRAH WINFREY SHOW (ABC): Oprah Winfrey announced on November 20, 2009, that her talk show will conclude in 2011 after 25 years on the air. Possibly the most significant female in U.S. history in terms of talent, cross-cultural influence, media, wealth, philanthropy, status and possibilities, she is said to be moving to Los Angeles to begin a cable television network.


WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (A-2, PG): This interpretation of Maurice Sendak’s best-selling children’s picture book is not for young children, but a parable of family, loneliness, coming-of-age and community. I did not enjoy it as much as contemplate the journey of Max into his imagination so that he could go home again. This is a film to talk about. Peril and language.

AMELIA (A-2, PG): Director Mira Nair’s biopic about Amelia Earhart, played by look-alike Hilary Swank, is beautifully filmed but does not tell us very much about America’s accomplished pioneer aviatrix and feminist. But the voiceovers of her poetry and writings give us a glimpse. Mature themes.

THE MEN WHO STARE AT GOATS (not yet rated, R): Based on a 2004 supposedly nonfiction book by Jon Ronson, it is a conspiracy theorist’s delight, an investigation into alternative combat methods by the U.S. military, based on the paranormal, New Age movement and psych-ops. Ewan McGregor is excellent as the reporter. Jeff Bridges and George Clooney excel in a film that is as poignant as it is absurd. Profanity.

A-1 General patronage
A-2 Adults and adolescents
A-3 Adults
L Limited adult audience
O Morally offensive

The USCCB's Office for Film and Broadcasting gives these ratings. See

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