What You Need To Know:
WE HAVE A POPE is not the contentious, direct attack on Christianity and the Catholic Church it might have been. However, toward the end, it suggests that all church leaders are more like actors than real religious leaders. Especially leaders wearing the extravagant clerical outfits of the Catholic Church. Thus, WE HAVE A POPE gives the sense that there’s nothing deeper to Christianity, Christian churches, or Catholicism than that.
(RoRo, AbAb, CC, FR, H, L, V, N, A, D, M) Strong Romantic worldview with a mixture of satire against Roman Catholicism but also somewhat respectful of its institutions, traditions, and faith, plus there’s a call on the Virgin Mary for help in one scene instead of Jesus and a major character is a psychiatrist who doesn’t believe in God; two obscenities (an “f” word and a “d” word) and there’s brief talk about going to Hell; light comical violence when psychiatrist organizes a volleyball tournament for the Catholic Cardinals as they wait on the Pope Elect to return; no sex; upper male nudity in one scene; alcohol use; smoking; and, lying and deceit by Pope’s spokesman, but apologizes later, and a couple Catholic Cardinals seem more interested in visiting a good restaurant rather than the business of their church.
WE HAVE A POPE, an Italian comedy, is not the contentious, direct attack on Christianity and the Catholic Church that it could have been. However, Catholics might be offended when the movie implies, toward the end, that the Pope is just a figurehead, an actor, like, perhaps, a politician. Even a subtle attack on a Christian church like this can lead to mockery and ridicule rather than insightful satire.
The movie opens with the death of a pope. As the Cardinals gather in the Vatican to pick a new pope, several Cardinals earnestly pray, “Please, not me, Lord.” Soon, however, the Cardinals have picked a dark horse, a Cardinal by the name of Melville.
Melville seems just as stunned as some of the other Cardinals, but he dutifully accepts the call. However, just before he’s about to appear to the faithful gathered below the balcony, he screams and says, “I can’t do this!”
Cardinal Melville runs back into the antechamber. Several men try to talk to him, but Cardinal Melville is distraught and seems befuddled. He’s also still reluctant to assume the mantle as one of St. Peter’s successors.
The cardinals decide to consult a psychiatrist, but they won’t let him ask any personal questions about the Pope’s childhood or his mother. Even worse, however, the psychiatrist admits he’s not a believer.
The cardinals decide to try the psychiatrist’s wife, who might be more helpful. On the way to her office, however, the Pope Elect, dressed in plainclothes, escapes and starts to wander the streets anonymously.
Meanwhile, the counselor to the Pope secretly decides to get a Vatican guard to occupy the Pope’s personal chambers. He tells the guard to rustle the curtains regularly, order anything to eat, and watch TV to make it appear that the newly elected Pope is still in his chambers. The guard begins to enjoy his role of fooling the flock. Also, as they wait for the Pope Elect to make up his mind, the psychiatrist organizes a volleyball tournament among the cardinals. He begins to take his role of keeping the cardinals active too seriously.
WE HAVE A POPE is a droll satire. It’s a little slow, however. Also, there’s not much of a climax to the movie. Thus, from practically the beginning, it doesn’t really know where it’s going. Or, where it wants to take its basic storyline. So, in the end, the movie just circles back to the point where the papal candidate decided he couldn’t go through with the calling that his colleagues, and God, have placed on him.
Ultimately, the movie’s primary revelation to why Cardinal Melville feels the way he does is that he didn’t really want to be a cardinal either. In fact, he just considers himself an actor playing a role. That, apparently, is the only thing he really enjoys about being a cardinal. Of course, there’s certainly a good amount of stagecraft in being any kind of public religious figure, especially when one gives sermons and speeches. However, in focusing on that aspect, WE HAVE A POPE gives the sense that there’s nothing deeper than that to Christianity, Christian churches, or Catholicism. It could be argued, however, that Melville refuses to become Pope because the position is indeed so important and powerful. Even so, why would being a Cardinal be any different? Ultimately, WE HAVE A POPE has too many holes.