What You Need To Know:
Mild Christian worldview of expressing & dealing with grief through faith; a few profanities, but talk of extramarital sexual escapades; and, lying & gently mocking one's parents for laughs.
Another recent blast from the past, Julia Sweeny, a former Saturday Night Live alum, creates a concert film and gives a funny stand-up routine on a simple sitting-room set in GOD SAID HA! Guided by lighting cues, she walks around the room recounting the mishaps, quirks and pitfalls of her life including divorce, cancer and death.
Julia begins her speech by stating that she is very much looking forward to living alone in a small, but cozy house. Yet, her brother contracts cancer and comes to live with her. Soon, her parents decide to move into her home as well to help take care of their son. Julia lands in the guest cottage. She vents her frustrations through hilarious mocking and mimicking her stodgy mother’s voice and mannerisms. She also tells a funny bit of her brother asking for the doctor’s credentials before they are allowed to examine him.
The house becomes even more crowded when she has to sleep on the pullout sofa, having to give up the guest cottage to a visiting boyfriend. This arrangement is due, and apparently in deference, to their parent’s presence and religious decorum. One day, Julia and her boyfriend come home in the afternoon to find themselves alone. Taking advantage of the freedom, they slip into the bedroom. The garbage man disturbs their lovemaking. The next day they are alone again and more of the same frolicking takes place, but this time she receives a telephone call from her father just to let her know that he and her mother will be home shortly.
Julia also talks about her sister, who lives in Tokyo and is married to a potato farmer named Yamamoto. (She calls him Yam, but he doesn’t have enough of a grasp of the English language to appreciate the pun.) Julia, a non-smoker, lights up a rebellious cigarette while driving home one day. The cigarette butt is blown onto the back seat of the car, which catches fire as she pulls up into her driveway. This mishap is blamed on a fictitious drive-by motorist because her parents deplore smoking.
Ironically, Julia herself contracts cancer and comments that Jesus only suffered one day on the cross. (Julia’s is a very rare form of cancer which generates great interest for the researching doctor who invites her out to discuss his fascination regarding her misfortune.) Julia eventually has a hysterectomy, but the doctor explains that they did not have to remove her ovaries.
Her mother is upset because an old teacher that Julia bumps into tells her that heaven is just an instant, a light at the end of a tunnel. After her brother dies, the parents move back to Spokane, where her mother still attends the Catholic Church. Her mother is successful at petitioning the priest to remove the sad looking Jesus from the cross and have him replaced with a Jesus who has a nice body and appears to have been working out.
Throughout the routine, triumph through humor, is offset by an underlying anger toward God for all this trouble. Julia’s religious barbs are not so much an indictment against suffering, or against God for allowing it, but a plea to God for understanding and comfort throughout it.
The personal struggle she encounters on this journey is enhanced by her solo on-stage, audience-interactive performance. She is able to induce a cadence of pathos and hilarity to extract a wide emotional response. A great deal of her routine is through mimicking and imitating the other players in this story, her family and friends. The audience experiences catharsis with Julia as she deals with her pain through humor.
Julia Sweeney is not a household name, and the casual moviegoer may find this movie too obscure and pointed for lasting worthwhile entertainment. SNL fans, Sweeney fans in particular, and those struggling with death and divorce may find this humor in the face of danger routine welcome, insightful and enjoyable.