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Saving Grace
By Sister Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Q U I C K S C A N

Eat Pray Love
Get Low
Dinner For Schmucks
The Big C
Summer Television
God in America
Film Capsules
Catholic Classifications



Eat Pray Love

EAT PRAY LOVE (L, PG-13): When successful New York writer Liz Gilbert's (Julia Roberts, Duplicity) husband, Stephen (Billy Crudup, Public Enemies), starts talking about having kids, Liz has a meltdown. She cannot sleep and slips into the bathroom at night to pray to God, something she has not done very often. She begs God to tell her what to do. God tells her to go back to bed.

As she deals with a growing sense of existential angst, she realizes she does not want to be married anymore. She and Stephen divorce. She takes responsibility for the failure of the marriage and he takes her for almost every penny he can get.

Liz decides to take a year off to discover grace and God: the first four months in Rome to learn Italian and savor food; then four months in India to learn to pray at a Hindu ashram; and four months in Indonesia, since a guru had once told her she would return and learn about love.

Based on Gilbert's 2006 best-seller, Eat Pray Love is the story of a woman who is genuinely seeking grace and transcendence. When I read the book, I knew what she was talking about, especially the middle-of-the-night moments of uncertainty and darkness. The film, however, was never able to reveal the depths of despair that the book conveyed or the encounters and revelations of grace that knit her year together.

The film is written by Ryan Murphy (Glee) and actress/writer Jennifer Salt; Murphy also directed. It has a rushed feeling and too much time is spent laying the foundational story.

The best part of the film for me was when Liz meets Richard (Richard Jenkins, The Visitor) at the ashram. He helps her forgive herself. In turn, Liz encourages him to reconcile with his family. Julia Roberts gives a good performance. Jenkins is authentic and heartfelt.

Liz Gilbert begins the year as a flawed human being and ends it by giving up her promise of celibacy and entering a relationship with Felipe (Javier Bardem, No Country for Old Men). This is not a choice practicing Catholics would make, true. She is still flawed—and still on a journey. But she sets aside her navel-gazing inertia and begins to do something for her neighbor, such as working to secure housing for a mother in Indonesia.

The book was better, but the film, with its beautiful cinematography, offers the possibility to talk with friends and family about things that matter, especially the courage to seek God, recognize grace and discover meaning in one's life. Some language, mature themes and situations.

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Get Low

GET LOW (not yet rated, PG-13): It is the 1930s and Felix Bush (Robert Duvall, Crazy Heart) is a curmudgeon who has lived like a hermit in the backwoods of Tennessee for more than three decades. Now he decides to throw his own funeral party.

The minister he approaches (Gerald McRaney, Jericho) doesn't understand. A young funeral director, Buddy (Lucas Black, Jarhead), overhears Felix's request, and he and his opportunistic boss Frank (Bill Murray, Get Smart) drive out to ask how they can help.

Felix offers a raffle for his land, but he is a mysterious, almost mythic figure, and people fear him because of all the stories they have heard over the years. Felix then visits a pastor in Indiana, the Rev. Charlie (Bill Cobbs, Night at the Museum), who knows his story. He wants Felix to confess but Felix resists.

Get Low is a rich, warm story despite the aspect of mystery and forbidden, unrequited love and tragedy. It is a small movie, a parable about truth, beauty and the art of consummate acting.

Duvall is terrific as the unhappy old man seeking redemption. The inevitability of death drives Felix to reveal himself, but he cannot do it alone; he needs the community to help him. The film is ably directed by Aaron Schneider (Simon Birch), but Duvall is the master. Mature themes.

DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS (L, PG-13): Tim (Paul Rudd, I Love You, Man) is looking for a promotion at a finance company when a colleague is fired. He is happy about the opportunity for advancement and makes a presentation that attracts the attention of the boss, Lance (Bruce Greenwood, Star Trek), who invites him to a monthly office dinner.

Everyone is to bring someone with a special talent so that management can mock and humiliate them. There will be a prize for the person who brings the biggest fool. Tim is not amused but goes along with it so he can get a raise and propose to his girlfriend.

Later, Tim literally runs into a man, Barry (Steve Carell, The Office), who is trying to rescue a dead mouse from the road. In fact, Barry is a taxidermist who dresses dead mice and places them in dollhouses. Barry attaches himself to Tim, creating a situation that causes myriad complications and drives the action.

Director Jay Roach, of the bawdy Austin Powers franchise, has delivered a thoughtful story in Dinner for Schmucks that is based on the French film The Dinner Game (Le Dines de Con). The premise for the company's dinner is hurtful and mean, but at the film's center are a kind heart and lessons about genuine relationships to be learned by all, as innocence and arrogance meet across the dinner table.

The real schmucks are those who think they are better than everyone else and can lord it over others through ridicule. Barry, though poor in spirit, lights up the room. Language, some crude humor, mature themes.

THE BIG C (Showtime, Mondays, check local listings): In this dramedy, Emmy Award-winner Laura Linney is Cathy Jamison, a wife, mother and teacher, who discovers she has cancer with a year to live. She decides to "get her weird back" and embarks on a year of change. This is an insightful rendering on death and dying. It also stars Gabourey Sidibe (Precious) as an obnoxious student Cathy sets out to help. Language, mature themes and situations.

SUMMER TELEVISION: Over the last few summers, in order to get viewers over network rerun doldrums and purgatoryfilled reality shows, stations have provided an interesting rather than brilliant lineup of formulaic cop and spy series (10 to 12 episodes).

From The Closer on TNT in 2005, with Kyra Sedgwick as a Los Angeles police chief who can close every case; to USA's Jeffrey Donovan in Burn Notice; to Neal Caffrey, played by Matthew Bomer, as a forcefully reformed art thief turned FBI consultant in White Collar; to Piper Perabo as the CIA's Annie Walker in Covert Affairs; the USA Network gets the entertainment right and light. In general, they keep explicit violence and other bothersome elements low.

Rizzoli & Isles, new on TNT this year, stars Angie Harmon and Sasha Alexander. It is a female buddy cop-and-doc show based on the novels of Tess Gerritsen.

It is unclear how many of these series will return next summer, but we can hope that network primetime will take note and try to keep up with these lowbudget, younger siblings on basic cable that are off and running.

GOD IN AMERICA (PBS, October 11-13): American Experience and Frontline on PBS are airing a six-part documentary on the history and influence of theological and cultural varieties of Protestantism, Catholicism and Judaism, brought to these shores by immigrants, in shaping America.

The series builds on the premise that, to understand the United States, one needs to grasp the influence of religion, from the Franciscan missionaries of the Southwest in the 1500s to the reemergence of conservative religion and politics in the 1970s.

It is narrated by, among others, actor Campbell Scott, and features performances by actors such as Chris Sarandon, who takes on the role of Abraham Lincoln.

But nontraditional American-born religious groups (such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses) are not considered at all. Islam and Eastern faiths are explored in the final segment. This is an intriguing and evocative series worthy of PBS.

 

DESPICABLE ME (A-1, PG): Gru (voice of Steve Carell) is a crook who adopts three little orphan girls to front for him as he steals an invention. The children's needs lead him to overcome his nefarious ways. The ending is quite moving. The film is from Universal Studios rather than Pixar/Disney, but I am still waiting for a studio to create a female animated hero. Some peril.

SAMSON AND DELILAH (not yet rated): Samson and Delilah are two young aboriginal teens who live a hopeless existence on a reserve near Alice Springs in Central Australia. They set out on their own and find the world beyond a harsh place for those who are different. And yet even when they are mistreated and left with nothing, love can find a way. This film won the Camera d'Or Award at Cannes in 2009, numerous Australian awards and international recognition. Violence, mature themes.

LETTERS TO FATHER JACOB (not yet rated): This lovely film is a gift from Finland, telling the story of Leila, a stony prisoner pardoned after 10 years, and the blind Catholic priest who hires her as a personal assistant. She is to answer all the letters he receives from people asking for prayers. As motivations are explored, Leila and Father Jacob bring redemption and insight to each other. This film, at 90 minutes, is ideal for retreats. In Finnish with English subtitles.

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 www.usccb.org/movies/index.htm.

Find reviews by Sister Rose and others at www.CatholicMovieReviews.org.

 


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