PG Score: 6/10
Father Stu was released in theaters on 4/13/22
Making her feature writing and directing debut, Rosalind Ross kicks off her filmography with the disjointed, yet affecting Father Stu. Hampered by an inconsistent performance from Mark Wahlberg, her flawed freshman endeavor overstays its welcome. Fortunately, there are several moving moments along the way that make the journey worthwhile.
The movie follows the true story of Stuart Long (Wahlberg), a former boxer who re-examines his place in the world after surviving a motorcycle accident. While on the path to recovery, he is drawn to Catholic priesthood.
The poor editing is arguably the most harmful sin present. Becoming especially apparent in the third act, the two-hour runtime is about 20 minutes too long. As Father Stu begins the arduous process of closing the book on its final chapter, waiting for the credits to roll turns into a chore. The jumbled storytelling does not do the film any favors either. Ross slaps scenes together in a careless manner, which leads to a messy plot and less impactful drama. The emotional component, while still a factor, is a casualty of these avoidable errors.
Thankfully, Father Stu is surprisingly funny and injects well-crafted, timely jokes. The unexpected levity could very well have derailed the heavy drama, but Ross adeptly wields humor to the movie’s benefit. Stuart’s initially crass nature mixed with the religious themes at the forefront make for an interesting juxtaposition. The first-time director intertwines the clashing elements with relative success.
Wahlberg manages to deliver a few heartfelt scenes but is unable to maintain the momentum for the film’s entirety. He mumbles through many of his lines and attempting to interpret his speech is incredibly taxing. The unintelligible monologues and garbled one-liners take away from an otherwise powerful script.
The supporting cast fares better and features Mel Gibson, Jacki Weaver, Teresa Ruiz, Cody Fern, and Malcolm McDowell. Gibson provides the best performance out of anyone (Wahlberg included) as Stu’s father (no, you did not read that backwards), Bill, but is sorely underused. His screen time is mostly limited to the last third, and despite ensuring his presence is felt, the character could have (and should have) been so much more. Weaver supplies plenty of comic relief as Stuart’s mom, Kathleen. Ruiz plays his love interest, Carmen. The Narcos: Mexico star displays satisfactory acting, but fades into the background in the second half. Fern and the ever-entertaining McDowell log decent performances as members of the seminary Stu attends.
Let There Be Light
Father Stu is a clumsy biopic, but for all its issues, the endearing qualities still make an impression. Rosalind Ross struggles throughout, but her efforts offer enough grace to justify a seat to her big screen baptism.