Saturday, April 23, 2016

Mr Church (2016) Tribeca 2016

Eddie Murphy plays Mr Church, a man who was hired to cook for a single mother and her daughter for the six months that the mother had left to live with breast cancer. However months became years and Mr Church became part of the family.

There is no getting around it  but Bruce Beresford's film wears it's heart on it's sleeve and the structure of the film follows a well worn cinematic pattern but if you can get past that MR CHURCH reveals itself to be a deeply moving film. There is great truths in the film and the film had me tearing up repeatedly during it's run time.

The there are a couple of reasons the film works so well. As I said above the has great truths lurking with in it. Watching the film's first half I was amazed at how much the film got right about being in a house with a dying matriarch. Watching the sequences play out I was reminded of the slow deterioration of my mother from a variety of factors. The declaration of Charlotte's mother that she promised to be around for her prom reminded me of conversations I had with my mother during some of the bad times. I also was moved by how the anger one feels in various situations isn't hidden.

The best thing in the film is Eddie Murphy. Yes the role is the sort of film is played as a man who can do anything, and in lesser hands the role would have been pure cliche, but Murphy, giving one of his finest performances lifts the film up to be something special. Murphy's performance is for the most part quietly contained. There is the occasional outburst, but largely Church wanders through the film as a kind of mythic savior...or would have had Murphy not imbued him with something more. There is a hidden life behind the facade that Church shows, and we see it not in the out bursts but in the activity behind the eyes. Watch the sequences when the adult Charlotte shows up unannounced at Church's door. Its clear he loves her and is willing to help her to a point but you can see the conflict going on behind his eyes. He does not want her there and wants his privacy. It's a notion that makes a on of the final scenes all the more touching.

After the Tribeca press screening I got into a discussion with some friends who didn't like the film. To them the film didn't do anything special and hit all of the expected plot points. I couldn't argue that  and I agreed, but as I have said there is a magic and realness to the small moments that make the film truly something special. It is as if screenwriter Susan McMartin, who based this on her own life, knew that for the film to have the desired effect and not be maudlin, she would have to forgo some of the complexity a less standard issue story telling would create. She structured film as a kind of eulogy for Mr Church who is being remembered by a young woman who saw him as something special, so there is no room for some of the layers a more clear eyed telling would engender.

Ultimately this is a film and story that is all about the heart and not the head. Intellectually I could rightly agree about the films flaws, but this isn't about the things we know instead its about what we feel. All of the discussions are about how we feel for each other, not about what we think. As such it makes perfect sense that this is an emotional film, a film of the heart and not the head. When you see this film, throw out reason and simply let yourself feel this film.

I unabashedly love this film with all my heart. One of the best films at Tribeca and maybe one of my favorites of 2016.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I steadfastly contend that Beresford's DRIVING MISS DAISY is wonderful despite the backlash after it won the Best Picture Oscar. Like you I was quite moved by MR. CHURCH, and would pose it as one of my Tribeca favorites this year. Murphy was terrific here, but there's plenty more to praise as you did. But yes it certainly does wear its heart on its sleeve.