In ‘Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul,’ Regina Hall Gives One of Sundance’s Best Performances

About 15 minutes later Horn for Jesus. Save your soul, I found myself uttering a thought that I would repeat over and over again throughout the movie: “Oh, she hates him. Damn she hate he!”

The duo in question are Lee-Curtis and Trinitie Childs – played by Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall respectively – a Baptist minister and his dead wife who are struggling to get their flock back. after a terrible scandal. Adamma Ebo’s satirical comedy, which premiered at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival, flaunts its massive super-couple rating on expensive, fully-metallic sleeves. From their Prada branded wardrobe (and Trinitie’s thousand-dollar hats) to production effects Lee-Curtis proudly says his place of worship has pioneered, Childs’ superiority is like a something like HBO. Righteous Gem—another dramatic comedy that targets exploitative religious establishments that are self-delusional.

Look a little closer, though, and you’ll discover the tragedy lurking beneath the expensive suit — an exploration of religion, narcissism, and self-isolation that holds space for some. complex reality.

The formula might not work with another pair of actors leading the way. Hall’s gift for expressive, fourth-wall-breaking glances complements Brown’s flamboyant power behind the podium. This couple’s chemistry is amazing, even (and perhaps especially) when they’re at odds, and the actors’ shared passion for taking the ridiculousness of their characters to the max. interesting thing (case in point: a scene in which a disgruntled Trinitie listens to her husband rap to Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” — just to get in, anyway).

For the scandal that rocked the Childs world, we learn that Lee-Curtis has been accused of sexual misconduct by many young, male former congregations — and the more we observe the goal’s reaction. The longer he stayed, the more appealing his wife’s pent-up anger became. Maybe that’s why the documentary crew about the couple simply wouldn’t leave her alone.

Whistle for Jesus largely unfolds as a work of fantasy created by a mostly silent director named Anita (although we do hear her eventually, the fictional director never steps into the frame). Trinitie objected to the constantly rotating cameras and Anita’s “flying over the wall” approach from the start, and over time, it’s easy to see why. With each wry smile, evasive and pervasive reply to Lee-Curtis’s misdeeds, the fury that trembled in Hall’s eyes increased. She seems to have spent years performing both for the church and for her husband, playing a faithful First Lady whose most unwavering faith lies not in God, but in the man sitting on the throne. next to her. .

She’s spent years… playing a staunch First Lady whose most unwavering faith lies not in God, but in the man sitting on the right throne beside her.

And now, here’s Anita and her camera—plus the people Trinitie has to put on a show. There is also a new, competitive supermarket that opens on Easter Sunday, the same day Childs’ church is expected to reopen and reopen services in the wake of the scandal. So the stakes in Trinitie’s performance are sky high.

Whistle for Jesus know better than to treat Trinitie’s pain as sympathy. She is an accessory to her husband’s misdeeds and a concoction — a fact that neither Anita, her documentary, nor the film that contains them will ever forget.

With each passing scene, Childs’ inner need to predict a certain kind of rationality becomes more apparent. The couple’s disparate relationship in faith and wealth seems to have completely destroyed their capacity for narcissism — and in other words, their relationship with genuine godliness, which requires asks us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

While Trinitie has learned to sublimate her need to conform to her husband’s will (a feature all too prominent of some Christian denominations), Lee-Curtis also struggles with her own. When Trinitie wakes him up for sex, he tries to penetrate her from behind until she asks to do it “normally”. He struggled to maintain an erection in the missionary position and instead asked her to perform intercourse — and then nod off to bed without regard for her pleasure. One gets the sense that this isn’t the first time Trinitie’s desire for intimacy has ended in disappointment. And in the next scene? Lee-Curtis delivers a passionate lecture on how homosexuals are destroying marriages. Hmmmm.

One could argue that Lee-Curtis’s implied sexual repression serves as an army of malevolent, gay murder—gays are predators. But neither Ebo’s writing nor her direction suggested that Lee-Curtis’ sexuality and his sexual misconduct were necessarily related; Sexual assault, after all, is as often about power as it is about sex. And Lee-Curtis’ relationship with his sexuality may be more tangled, his relationship with power even more confounded.

Lee-Curtis was, at least at the time we met him, a textbook narcissist, his need for authenticity so great that only a large assembly could pull off this trick. (Intriguingly, a 2015 study of college men found that subjects exhibiting narcissistic traits The pastor refused to confront his predatory behavior, even when asked directly. And when he practices his return sermon, his despised wife doesn’t even try to hide her disdain for his insincerity.

At the same time, however, the film leaves space for an uncomfortable truth: When given access to large audiences, paradoxically even the most monstrous people can make a positive impact. to the lives of some people who don’t even know them. For example, what should we do when a garbage inmate stops Lee-Curtis from giving thanks for making a profound impact in his life? It was a conundrum at a time when “symbols” like Bill Cosby (sometimes) blamed for the abuse — and although Ebo stopped short of providing answers, the exchange added even more texture to the film’s relationship to its themes.

The final uplifting factor, however, is Hall, whose performance of resentment reaches a climax by the end of the film. Whistle for Jesus‘The title may, on its face, represent the concealment and metamorphosis of what should be a spiritual practice, but it also highlights Trinitie’s own degradation in the series’ final act. movie. Collapsed in gospel mime makeup and forced to jump by the side of the road while holding a billboard to entice passersby, Trinitie’s cold facade finally cracked. It stands in stark contrast to the confrontation that Childs shares with one of the Lee-Child survivors, who carries with them a higher dignity than the power couple shares between them.

Hall’s final monologue is a tragic wonder, and not just because she can convey emotions so profoundly under that makeup. Trinitie is a ball of anger for herself after all that time being trapped under her husband’s thumb – and when Anita finally jumps in to ask a question that seems obvious after hours of filming, Trinitie’s rage exploded in a breathtaking, unsettling human fashion. You know what they say: Hell has no fury like a scorned First Lady.

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