"A Flawed Man Of God"
What You Need To Know:
THE APOSTLE shakes and shouts the glory of God. Robert Duvall spares very little in portraying the passions and earnestness of God-loving people. The movie contains a positive affirmation of the Christian faith and a strong Christian worldview. There are, however, touches of human weaknesses: Sonny’s arrogance and violence; and, Jessie’s adultery and revenge. These show that man is fallible, and all grace is from God. Duvall’s performance is engaging and moving. THE APOSTLE is one of the few films that portrays Christians as men and women of God and not mockeries of faith.
(B, CCC, L, VV, S, M) Biblical, moral & Christian worldview with a positive & intense evangelical theme with Pentecostal elements & glorifying Jesus & acknowledging Him as Savior, encouraging church attendance, sermons, hymn singing, & extensive praising of God; 5 vulgarities & 2 profanities; some violence including a car accident, a church minister hitting a man with a bat, punching a man repeatedly in a fist fight, & man pushes wife & pulls her hair; an implied adulterous sexual situation; and, some miscellaneous immorality involving running away form the law, arrogance, a violent temperament, marital breakdown, & separation.
Robert Duvall used his own money to write, direct and produce a new movie called THE APOSTLE. Dealing with faith and Christianity, as he so ably did in TENDER MERCIES, he plays Sonny Dewey, a man who has always had a call of God on his life. Sonny is an energetic, colorful and zealous preacher who has a strong following among white, black and Hispanic populations. His wife, Jessie (Farrah Fawcett), however, is tired of his long absences and philandering. She decides to leave Sonny for a younger preacher, named Horace. This upsets Sonny’s world, and he faces the loss of his wife, children and church.
One day in the park, he tries to talk to his children, but finds resistance from Jessie and Horace. Intense and highly egotistical, Sonny loses it and hits Horace hard with a baseball bat. Shamed, Sonny runs. He fakes his own car accident and, with almost no money or possessions, prays for God to direct him to a new destination. Flawed but still seeking God, Sonny desires to lead a church. He ends up in Bayou Boutte, a mostly black bayou town where he befriends many, among those, Sam (Walt Goggins), a young, naïve mechanic, and Elmo (Rick Dial), a garage owner. Elmo is also a local DJ who hires Sonny as a garage mechanic in return for free air time on his station for Sonny to preach. Eventually, Sonny meets the Reverend Blackwell (John Beasley), who lets Sonny convert his run-down house into a church.
There is now a new opportunity for Sonny to do what he loves best: lead a church to God. He dubs himself as “the Apostle E.F.” and gives his church the name, “The One Way Road to Heaven,” which grows in popularity. He even tames a troublemaker (Billy Bob Thornton) into accepting Jesus Christ. He dates Elmo’s assistant, the gentle and lovely Toosie (Miranda Richardson), who is married though separated, and their dates balance precariously. As his new life begins, Sonny still maintains ties with his faithful friend, Joe (Billy Joe Shaver). Sonny learns that his beloved mother has died and so has Horace from the blow. Sonny is now a murderer.
As his ministry grows, Sonny realizes that someone, somewhere will recognize him through the radio airways. He is right − Jessie hears him, and, as Sonny gives his last sermon in his new church, the police surround the house of God, ready to take him for his crime.
There is much to be said in favor of this movie, but most significant is its positive affirmation of God, church and evangelism. Sonny is a flawed and sinful man, and perhaps he is an example that even preachers struggle with sin. The movie shows that you can still have a call and an anointing on your life to preach, despite your flaws and failings. Apparently Sonny’s testimony for God wasn’t completely destroyed by his past.
The movie is biblically-based with a very strong view towards evangelism and salvation through Jesus Christ. There is much prayer and praising of God, and almost everything Sonny does, except for his violent acts of temper, is God-directed and God-driven. There are also very positive portrayals of Christian character and values. The people of Bayou Boutte lend their helping hand to the stranger, called Sonny, putting their trust in him and their faith in God.
Sonny’s shortcomings are always prevalent when he once again resorts to violence in his first meeting with troublemaker Billy Bob Thornton. These are big blemishes on Sonny’s otherwise God-devoted character. The movie resolves his flaws through justice exacted by man’s law.
THE APOSTLE is a dynamic and moving film about one man’s love for spreading the word of God. It is a story of Sonny, of his strengths and weaknesses.
THE APOSTLE also uses many actual congregation members in its scenes, primarily in the roles of Sister Johnson and Sister Jewell. They perform some highly entertaining Gospel singing.
Robert Duvall’s performance is the most engaging of all. A fiery, clapping, jumping, shouting man of the cloth, Sonny knows no limits in telling people about God. His human flaws only make him more believable, and it is perhaps the movie’s intention that Sonny’s redemption through these flaws. Robert Duvall makes Sonny larger than life and yet as human as the people he evangelizes and disciples. In addition, Robert Duvall’s portrait of God-loving men and women stands out in this day and age when there is a tendency for movies to make a mockery of passionate men and women of God.