Biopic a warm and heartfelt story of faith and redemption

Mark Wahlberg as Stuart Long in a scene from “Father Stu”. (Karen Ballard/Sony Pictures)

Our guiding philosophy when reviewing films over the years has generally been to focus on the work and not the personal lives of those making the art – but in the case of the inspirational biopic “Father Stu,” it is impossible to ignore that Mark Wahlberg is playing. the main character and Mel Gibson as his father. Each man has a violent, racist and troubling past – in Wahlberg’s case before he rose to fame, with Gibson’s ugly episodes occurring after he achieved global stardom – and the pair have spoken of their respective religions, and now they’re in a movie that’s about redemption.

Wahlberg called it a passion project, and Gibson’s casting certainly doesn’t seem like a coincidence, especially considering that “Father Stu” is directed by Gibson’s romantic partner Rosalind Ross (who does a fine job here). Wahlberg’s Stuart Long is a drunken fighter, womanizer, and lifelong lunatic who decides he’ll become a priest relatively late in life, and Gibson’s Bill Long is an alcoholic, verbally abusive, and versatile SOB. who has been estranged from his son for years but may well find reconciliation when Stu needs him most.

Once the film begins, it’s easy to put aside what we know about Wahlberg and Gibson and what we might assume their motivations are for doing this project, and settle for warm, heartfelt, grounded work. on faith with strong performances by both leads. as well as Jacki Weaver as Stu’s tough but loving mother and Teresa Ruiz as the beautiful and caring Sunday school teacher who captures Stu’s attention and is the conduit to his spiritual awakening.

Stu from Wahlberg is a ham and egg in his late thirties who endured and dealt brutal beatings for years without making any real money, and after a doctor told him it was high time to hanging up the gloves, Stu gets the rash and a pretty ridiculous decision to drive west to Hollywood to become an actor. This leads to him working the meat counter at a grocery store and having minor legal scrapes and sleepwalking through life, until one day Carmen de Ruiz walks into the grocery store, publishes a brochure about an event. religious, and Stu finds her at the church and tries to win her heart.

At first, Stu’s attendance at Carmen’s Mass and Sunday school classes, and her proclamations of accepting Jesus Christ as her Lord and Saviour, are just fraudulent games in the name of courting Carmen. Things change, however, when Stu is involved in a horrific motorcycle accident and nearly dies, after which he makes a real commitment to God and announces his intentions to become a priest – but before Stu can be ordained he is diagnosed with a a rare disease known as inclusion body myositis, and he begins to lose control of his body to the point where he is in a wheelchair and can no longer perform the simplest tasks without assistance.

Stu’s father Bill, who initially scoffed at Stu’s intentions to become a priest, has his own revelation when he sees his son wasting away before him. After a lifetime of not being there for his boy, downgrading him, or ignoring him outright, Bill has the chance to do the right thing.

Wahlberg, who reportedly gained around 30 pounds to reflect the changes in Stu’s physique after his diagnosis, does a remarkable job of capturing the transformation of Stu’s condition as he convincingly plays a man who was once a force. physical but who was all smooth and empty charm until he turned to his faith and spent his last years advising his fellow men, even as his condition worsened. Weaver and Gibson touch in their scenes together, playing two rough-hewn people who broke up years ago but now find solace in each other through their love for their son. Ruiz adds depth to what could have been a walking holy card of a role.

‘Father Stu’ doesn’t break new ground in the biographical game, but it is a solid and worthy tribute to the real Father Stu, who continued to do the work of the Lord until his death in 2014 at the age of 50. years.

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