Thursday, December 8, 2016
MR. CHURCH (2016)
Directed By: Bruce Beresford
Written By: Susan McMartin
Cinematography By: Sharone Meir
Editor: David Beatty
Cast: Eddie Murphy, Britt Robertson, Natasha McElhone. Xavier Samuel, Lucy Fry, Christian Madsen, Thom Barry
"Mr. Church" tells the story of a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook - Henry Joseph Church. What begins as a six month arrangement instead spans into fifteen years and creates a family bond that lasts forever.
This film feels more like it belongs on the Hallmark channel or lifetime. As it feels more like a sentimental TV movie than a feature film. There is nothing exactly wrong with the film. It just feels very familiar and offers no real surprises. Nor does it feel like a film with a story that deserves or really needs to be told.
It does offer a kind of uplifting story. If you wanted a film to watch with the family that is emotional. This could be that type of film. As it hits all the traditional beats. To tell you the truth of not for the presence of Eddie Murphy as the star of this film. In more of a dramatic fashion. This film would barely be noticed.
Bruce Beresford is the director of many feature films including DRIVING MISS DAISY. The only feature I have ever seen of his and really enjoyed was the film DOUBLE JEOPARDY. As he usually doesn't make films that interest me and after the disastrous SILENT FALL. I really didn't pay attention to his films.
David Anspaugh (HOOSIERS, RUDY) was previously attached to direct, but pulled out.
When I was younger I did as anyone who was up for an oscar nominated or winning. I always paid attention to and gave the utmost respect. I still do no matter what as a director. Unless you truly make putrid films. Though To give respect to anyone who can actually get one made successfully also even if I don't particularly enjoy it. This is a strange film to a degree, at least for me. As once again this film has the mystical negro at it's center but seems to want that it work against that cliche, by Constantly hinting at a backstory for the main character. That there is something deeper going on. Sort of building up to it. As we see him as by day this calm, mild mannered, smart cook for a family who dispenses advice and encourages reading to the young daughter. Though all he asks is that he have his privacy when he goes home at night.
Later on in the film when the daughter comes to love with him. We see at night him constantly coming home drunk and screaming. While always leaving his wallet and a matchbook from the bar in which he comes and goes. By the end of the film certain things are revealed but still only really seems to manage about a few minutes of screen time and really.
The film doesn't explore or go to really any depth.
Instead most of the film we focus on the young daughter of the woman he works for. The mother is dying of cancer and they are more lower middle class. So he becomes a surrogate caretaker of her form most of her life. From a child to a young mother herself. His character remains selfless throughout.
When it comes to the mystical helpful before cliche. Bruce beresford is no stranger after all having directed Morgan Freeman in DRIVING MISS DAISY. Which seemed to be the noticeable beginning and kind of trap for Morgan Freeman I those types of roles, but it also lead to his more acing success and stardom also. Though after that film while already established it also tended to become more and more cliche or evident. Not only with African Americans, it was open to other minorities. but usually them. Who would somehow come out of nowhere and magically help out Caucasian characters with their problems. Usually as a form of self sacrifice or the minority in question really having little history or any that is really explained. If not that way it was somehow that the story supposedly being about African Americans got centered around Caucasians or some Caucasian saving or helping minorities despite themselves (look at films such a THE LEGEND OF BAGGAR VANCE, DANCES WITH WOLVES, THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON, THE HELP, BRUCE ALMIGHTY)
Now The way the film presents itself at least in the previews I thought race would come a bit more into the film. Like if it was taking place in the south in the fifties, but the film takes place more in the 70's and 80's. That tries to feel nostalgic to a degree. Only to explain the lack of modern technology. As mostly it could have been told as a modern day story.
Just like that it seems to be a film that tries to be a throwback or go for more a classic feel. Which might explain why it is so non-offensive. Don’t get me wrong I like an uplifting overly happy film as much as the next person. In fact this is the type of film I wish there was more of once in awhile. The problem is that it goes out of it’s way with this ambition for no reason. That it begins to feel a bit grating and sour.
There is nothing wrong it just stays so predictable and sweet that it becomes annoying. Eddie Murphy is good in the film, but all it really asks of him is to be less energetic and be calm most of the time. Also speak in clear sentences with emphasis.
Against the way the film is promoted was more like this would be an Oscar nominated/winning performance and while it is good. It's. It that noteworthy as it has been obvious most of his career Eddie Murphy always had the talent and skills for performances like this and better. It was only when was he going to take a chance on a film like this.
This role wasn't specifically written for him, he was replacing Samuel L. Jackson, who was meant to play Mr. Church first.
Even though the rest of the film does more involve the daughters story. The film feels centered around his character. The movie is even named after him. It just seems there should be more to the film and the story. Rather then just feeling like filler or like some screenwriters autobiography who decided it would make great material.
The major problem with the film is that here is no conflict plenty of drama but no conflict.
If that wasn’t enough, the film feels so filled with clichés that many scenes seem to be designed to be heartwarming or tragic. So that the film gets you more emotionally invested more than anything. So you won’t notice the films many problems.
As the film feels very minor than necessary or even coming close to major. It comes off as flat. Though deliciously filmed when it comes to food and their preparation.
If looking for a family film or something heartwarming this might be right up your alley, if not you can easily skip.