Film reviews are not a specialty of mine, but when I come across movies that are edifying to my faith, or at least reasonably respectful towards it, I like to share.
When devout Catholics search for movies to stream, for the most part the best they can hope for is something reasonably good while being reasonably clean. After filtering out smutty movies and bad movies, you’ve narrowed down your range of choices quite a bit.
We came across this movie, saw that it was rated PG and had a decent Rotten Tomatoes rating, and decided to give it a shot. What a pleasant surprise.
It was made in 2000 and has David Duchovny and Minnie Driver in the leading roles. Also of note are Carroll O’Connor and Jim Belushi.
When it opens the heroine, Grace (Driver), is in the hospital awaiting a donor for a heart transplant she needs to stay alive. Eventually she gets a donor and goes into surgery. Her grandfather, played by O’Connor with a very good Irish accent, accompanies her as she is being wheeled down the hall. As they part she implores him, “Grandpa, pray! Pray, OK?”
And Grandpa prays, boy does he pray! He stays up all night in the hospital’s Catholic chapel, lighting candles, praying the rosary, interceding for his granddaughter in any way he can think of. The surprise was not only the prayerfulness of the scene, but Carroll O’Connor — Archie Bunker! — of all people playing the part.
Grandpa is the owner of an Italian restaurant called O’Reilly’s Italian Restaurant. The restaurant features live Italian musicians playing such Italian favorites as “Danny Boy” and “When Irish Eyes are Smiling”. You surmise that he opened an Italian restaurant rather than an Irish one, because one of his best friends is “one of the best Italian cooks in Chicago.” There is a regular poker game after hours in the restaurant, accompanied by wine, beer and cigars, with O’Connor, the Italian cook, one other Italian guy and a Pole. In other words a strong undercurrent of cultural Catholicism.
Other Catholic-friendly aspects to the movie were, first, the family of Grace’s best friend Megan, the wife of Joe, played to perfection by Jim Belushi as a paramedic and all-around decent, Chicago-type regular guy, who at one point offers to beat the snot out of someone who he thinks has played the cad towards Grace. The Catholic-friendly part is that they have five kids, and so evidently are not using a whole lot of birth control, yet are very happily married in a down-to-earth way.
And finally, by the time of the climactic romantic moment between Grace and her love-interest (Duchovny — I’m leaving out any further description of him so as not to spoil the plot), he professes his love and permanent devotion to her, despite her having had heart surgery with a big ugly scar running down the middle of her chest — and without their ever having gone to bed together. At one point his friend teases him about not having slept with her: “She’s playing you, man, she’s one of those types who doesn’t want to play around, she just wants to reel you in!” (or something to that effect). To which he replies, “Yeah, well, you know what? It’s working!”
Right up to the end I found the whole movie very well done. There’s a lot of lighthearted humor, and it handles heart-wrenching sorrows in a way that is realistic, yet without leaving you feeling depressed. The romantic, climactic ending I thought was a bit overwrought, a little too Hallmark-y. But it was easily forgiveable in the light of all the film’s merits.