Follows the life of Father Stuart Long, a boxer-turned-priest who inspired countless people during his journey from self-destruction to redemption.
Check out Chuck’s interview with the star, Mark Wahlberg, here: https://www.wcia.com/ciliving-tv/father-stu-and-the-thing-about-pam-reviews-with-reel-talk-with-chuck-and-pam/
Just in time for Easter comes a story of redemption and forgiveness as Mark Wahlberg portrays Stuart Long, a beaten up boxer who has a change of heart. Stuart comes from a rough, broken family whose traumas are passed down to him. His father (Mel Gibson), abusive, his mother (Jacki Weaver), detached, creates a failed system for the young man whose dreams of becoming a professional boxer are dashed after one too many hits to the head. His newest dream is to go to Hollywood and use those good looks and chiseled body to land acting jobs. With mediocre success, he meets the woman of his dreams, Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), but to her, Stuart initially is more of a nightmare. But through her, Stuart’s direction changes yet again and he wants to become a priest.
This is where the story really picks up after a slight spinning of its wheels and a couple of contrived situations. As Stuart battles preconceived notions from all of those around him including the Monsignor Kelly (Malcolm McDowell), Stuart fights the toughest battles of his life, but this time with love and resolve.
You can tell that this is a passion project for Wahlberg with his performance which is stellar. Never over-the-top and always genuine, Wahlberg becomes Stuart Long and tells his story with sincerity. We witness his metamorphosis and perhaps even feel changed ourselves. And for those who are not fans of Mel Gibson (I am not), you will have to give him a chance on this one as he shines as the abusive, demanding, and unforgiving father. Jacki Weaver finds just the right notes to balance out a symphonic story about one man, his family, and finding one’s purpose in life.
“Father Stu” is based on a true story of Father Stuart Long whose life touched so many in a very short period of time. Beautifully written and directed by Rosalind Ross — her first feature — “Father Stu” is an inspiring and captivating story of a man who doesn’t give up on himself even when the world around him does. While it is considered a “faith-based” film, it’s not just a film for those with religious convictions. It’s a film for anyone who loves a good story.
3 1/2 stars
If good intentions were the basis for entering cinematic heaven, then Rosalind Ross’ “Father Stu” would earn a place at the top of its firmament. Unfortunately, I won’t be judging it in such lofty terms and as such, it falls a bit short of divine perfection. A passion project of its star and producer Mark Wahlberg, this is a film that will likely speak to those in need of a bit if reassurance where the state of humanity is concerned – and who doesn’t need that right about now – and to be fair, the lessons it preaches are not overt or laid on too thick. Too bad it takes so long for the movie to find its feet as first-time director Rosalind Ross, who also penned the screenplay, flounders a bit in bringing this rather unwieldy tale to the screen with a sense of expediency.
To say that Stuart Long (Wahlberg) is struggling to find his place in the world is quite an understatement. His lackluster boxing career derailed because of injuries and multiple brushes with the law, he is in search of some sort of direction, his mother (Jacki Weaver), hoping against hope he’ll find his way. She’s none too thrilled with his latest plan – to go to Hollywood to be a movie star – but if Stu has one positive quality, it’s his sense of determination. Needless to say, the whole acting thing doesn’t work out and neither does a reunion with his estranged father (a fine Mel Gibson).
However, the one positive is his meeting Carmen (Teresa Ruiz), a young beauty he falls for instantly, going so far as showing up at her church to make some time with her. She knows exactly what Stu’s after and doesn’t fall for his song-and-dance act. But some of the sermons he hears start to have a bit of an impact and after claiming to have had a vision after having a near fatal motorcycle accident, he decides to become a priest. Not long after, he’s diagnosed with a form of muscular dystrophy.
If this weren’t a true story, you’d scoff at the fantastic turns the tale takes. Yet, there is a validity of the story that keeps us engaged, even though Ross isn’t able to generate a good deal of momentum during the first two acts. The screenplay is in desperate need to be streamlined, Long’s story coming off as scattered. While this may reflect its hero’s life, it doesn’t make for compelling storytelling.
However, there’s no question the film finds its feet in its third act and Ross applies a surprisingly deft touch as Long’s condition worsens. It would be tempting to lay the sentiment on with a trowel but the director is wise enough to step back and simply let the events play out. No embellishing is needed to move us at this point.
Wahlberg gives one of his best performances, subverting the physicality he often uses so effectively by gaining a considerable amount of weight and conveying Long’s trials with his face and voice, each of which slowly slacken as the film progresses, and soulful eyes. Restraint is the key here, even with the physical tools he still has at his disposal, the actor creating a sense of poignancy and strength that never seems insincere.
Gibson, as well as Malcolm McDowell as an understanding monsignor, provide solid support, the film getting a jolt of energy whenever they appear. They, Wahlberg and the film’s vital message nearly salvage this worthy enterprise, one that would have benefitted from a rewrite or two and a good trimming.
2 1/2 Stars