Wednesday 14 September 2022

"Redeeming Love" (Guardian 12/09/22)

Redeeming Love

Dir: D.J. Caruso. With: Abigail Cowen, Tom Lewis, Eric Dane, Famke Janssen. 134 mins. Cert: 12A

The latest from evangelical Christian producers Pinnacle Peak – formerly Pure Flix, the money behind the surprisingly enduring God’s Not Dead series – is an adaptation of a Francine Rivers novel that remaps the Biblical tale of Hosea onto a Western goldrush setting. That synopsis suggests a level of creative imagination and ambition, possibly something like Michael Winterbottom hauling The Mayor of Casterbridge further West for 2000’s The Claim. Yet the movie landing here this weekend, thinly scattering a parable’s worth of plot across a 134-minute canvas, instead resembles HBO’s Deadwood recut for Sunday-school purposes: alternately pious, puzzling and punitive, with a sternly wagging finger never far from entering the frame.

Let us give Pinnacle Peak this: they’re getting mildly more sophisticated about delivering The Message. D.J. Caruso, a studio director around the mid-Noughties moment of Taking Lives and Disturbia, gives the courtship of soulfully bestubbled farmer Michael Hosea (Tom Lewis) and Pair-a-Dice’s star prostitute Angel (Abigail Cowen) a sunny, handsome, Nicholas Sparks-like sheen. (It’s the best-looking faith movie since 2014’s Dean Semler-shot Heaven is for Real.) And unlike the early, cheaper Pure Flix ventures, this one has proper actors. Famke Janssen enjoys herself as a brothel madam, while the leads – raised exclusively on wholegrain breakfast cereal – are sincere enough in their Best Little Whorehouse on the Prairie way.

Still, Caruso’s relying on this competency to smooth us past onscreen activity ranging from the not-quite-credible via the very bizarre to the openly warped. Sex-positive this is not; sex-petrified is closer to it. Angel’s abuse by various sketchily defined brutes is the only action in town while our virtuous hero resists her charms; ice-cold lakes, wood-chopping and banjo-plucking provide unintentionally amusing displacement activity. You keep imagining a Guy Maddin or John Waters version that uncoupled the chastity belt to revel in this script’s campier, schlockier, more wanton aspects. It’d doubtless spook the Pinnacle Peak faithful – but that's what separates art from diligently illustrated sermons such as this.

Redeeming Love opens in selected cinemas from Friday.

No comments:

Post a Comment