FILM REVIEW: FATHER STU
Release Date: 13h May 2022
Directed by: Rosalind Ross
Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Jacki Weaver, Mel Gibson, Teresa Ruiz
Written by: Rosalind Ross
Cinematography: Jacques Jouffret
Father Stu is a faith-based movie, and a poorly-made one at that (Is there any other kind?). Produced by and starring supercatholics Mel Gibson and Mark Wahlberg, it’s a biopic that belongs on the God Channel, not the cinema. The only difference between this and patronising twaddle such as God’s Not Dead is that it has bigger names attached rather than Sabrina the Teenage Witch, or the guy who played Superman on Clark and Lois.
Walberg plays Stuart Long, a boxer forced to quit the ring because of health issues. Long must then figure out what he’s going to do with the rest of his life. He decides he wants to be an actor and moves to Hollywood, but instead ends up working at a supermarket deli counter (which is one of the film’s only believable elements). It’s here that he falls for Teresa Ruiz’s devout catholic Sunday school teacher, and after relentlessly stalking her like Jimmy Saville in a children’s hospital, Long decides to make the unlikely pivot into the priesthood.
Written and ploddingly directed by first-timer Rosalind Ross, the wholly unoriginal script is part cliché, part scripture. There’s no interesting hook here that might drag Father Stu out from the mediocre. The film is so wildly inconsistent that either a lot was cut out, or it’s simply written poorly. As Long’s mother, Jackie Weaver is forced to recite dialogue that a normal human being would ever utter . For reasons known only to Gibson himself, he seems to have a gun glued to his hand from beginning to end. At one point he goes to the bathroom and for a brief moment it looks like he might squeeze toothpaste on the barrel and use it to brush his teeth.
The plot develops with all of the grace of a snake trying to eat a rocking chair. One thing does not lead to the next in any remotely authentic manner. Instead, the plot is booted down the road like a deflated football. The decision to become a priest is quite a big step, but in the context of this story, it makes as much sense as Wahlberg deciding to become an astronaut, or a burlesque dancer. This comes after Long’s career path has already gone from boxer to butcher to wannabe actor. It’s simply not portrayed in a manner that’s even slightly credible.
It becomes apparent after the first 20 minutes that we are being preached at by Marky Mark. Father Stu is like one of those scams where the promise of a free lunch ends up as a strong-armed pitch for a Bulgarian property pyramid scheme. At a certain point the only reasonable reaction is to laugh at Wahlberg’s audacity. After all, this movie has a praying montage.
It begs the question, if Wahlberg was a scientologist, and Father Stu was about a guy struggling to reach Thetan level orange or whatever the hell it is those people believe, would it be acceptable? Father Stu will undoubtedly play very well to that small section of gun-and-god-loving bible belt America, but for the rest of us living in the present, it looks positively prehistoric. Someone once said that religion is like a penis. It’s fine to have, but if you take it out in public and start waving it in my face, then we’re going to have a problem.