In his spiritual, emotionally charged screenplay, Duvall creates every
sense of the old-time religion of the deep South. He is Sonny, the shouting,
sweating, jumping, fire-and-brimstone preacher in a large Pentecostal church
in Texas. In Leap of Faith (1992), Steve Martin was faking this kind
of behavior. But here, Duvall feels it in every fiber of his being, and
so do we.
Like all of Jesus' children, Sonny is not without sin. He and his wife
Jessie (Farrah Fawcett) have had their troubles, and she decides she wants
a divorce. After he strikes her lover with a baseball bat, putting him in
a coma, Sonny must leave town leave his church, his children, his
congregation and hit the road. As he destroys all his identification,
he adopts a new persona: "Apostle E.F."
He drifts into a small town in Louisiana and gets a job as an auto mechanic.
His boss also owns a radio station, and E.F. establishes a radio ministry
whose quickly growing popularity leads to a small church on a forgotten
highway. And there he is, back in his element, with another devoted congregation.
But despite all his successes, he knows that the Lord is going to come looking
What an experience. Duvall is talking with the Lord in every moment,
whether verbally or not. He is steeped in it; he walks, talks, and breathes
sprituality. With excellent supporting performances by John Beasley as a
retired black preacher who helps E.F. establish his church, Walt Goggins
as his friend and fellow mechanic, and Miranda Richardson as the girl who
works at the radio station, Duvall was able to craft his deeply textured
character, an intense individual surrounded by people eager to bask in his
reflected light. The powerful conversion scenes of Goggins and Billy Bob
Thornton, whose character starts out as a belligerent racist, put this film
over the top. What an astonishingly moving performance by all.
However you feel about the fundamentalist brand of spirituality, or about religion in general, take it from me, this film will make you feel the Power of the Lord. Or perhaps more accurately, the power of the Lord over Man. *****
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