Variety Hates Religious Theme of Movie Because...Well... it's Religious

June 1st, 2008 7:48 PM

Robert Koehler of Variety is upset at Director Mark Pellington over his new film, "Henry Poole Is Here." He can't believe the audacity of a movie with religious themes actually having religious themes in it. Why it's a crime, you see. Koehler is so upset that he blurts out the memorable critique of, "not since 'The Passion of the Christ' has a mainstream Hollywood product insisted so firmly in faith"!

Wow, "insisted" firmly in faith? Oh, the humanity. Why there oughtta be a law!

You can just feel the anguish that Koehler has that this director dared to feature religious conversion, religious discussions, and a serious attempt to legitimize faith in his film. Of course, to Koehler, that fealty to faith absolutely must be at the expense of science. In fact, he sees "jabs at science" at every turn in the flick. Koehler is entirely incensed that anyone dare make a movie that presents belief in God in a positive light as a force that can affect "growth" in people. The outright hostility that Koehler has for religion is shocking. It has to be seen to be believed.

Most of this review is mere outrage at religion, with very little actual film criticism. In fact, about the only real film criticism appears in the last two paragraphs of a 10 paragraph article. The rest of it is a recounting of the plot along with Koehler's venomous anti-religious bile interspersed between.

I won't bother with the legitimate criticism of the style, technique and acting in the film, but here are the vitriolic, anti-religious segments of the review.

  • (The) Pic's tendency to lecture on the power of faith and religion and on the demerits of science seems to assume an almost childlike audience that needs to be spoon-fed Pablum.
  • Christian moviegoers will have to show up in great numbers to keep the film from being doomed to something far less than sleeper status.
  • So insistent is the film that lack of belief in God is a personal failure, nonbelievers are likely to feel offended.
  • Not since "The Passion of the Christ" has a mainstream Hollywood product insisted so firmly in faith while its deprecation of science and medicine has seemed singularly harsh.
  • Understandably peeved, particularly when Esperanza begins bringing over some of her church congregants and her priest...
  • Esperanza asks him, "Don't you believe in God?", the question seemingly a grave accusation, implying Henry has some growing to do.

So, religion is "Pablum," religion being in a film automatically makes non-believers "offended," religion must be a "deprecation of science," non-religious people confronted by religious people are "understandably peeved," etc., etc.

Koehler also imagines that the film is especially anti-science. Saying...

The doc's nurse, for good measure, is so inept that she can't apply a decent shot, just one of a few jabs here at medicine and science.

Add to all this Patience (Rachel Seiferth), the checkout clerk at Henry's grocery store, weighing in against science to Henry and citing no less than Noam Chomsky on the subject.

I'll not necessarily discount the possibility since I haven't seen the movie, but I'd lay odds that the counterpoints to science aren't meant to eliminate science as a worthy thing, but just to highlight that there is also something other than science. Couldn't it be that the film wasn't necessarily anti-science, just pro faith/religion?

Not to Koehler.

It just has to be a fact that being religious wholly is at the exclusion of science.

There is so much hate for religion in this review that it obscures any actual film criticism making the piece not worth much as film criticism. It is, though, a perfect example of how much Hollywood hates religion.