Just when you think disingenuous spiritual leaders have been satirized every which way, along comes Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. from filmmaking siblings Adamma and Adanne Ebo (the former wrote and directed, the latter produced). The Ebos offer an original perspective with their feature film debut and, despite the familiar material, the film stands as a really strong dark dramedy about redefining redemption.
A charismatic pastor (Lee-Curtis Childs played by Emmy award winner Sterling K. Brown) and his wife (Trinitie Childs played by Support the Girls’ Regina Hall) are looking for a resurgence after a controversial scandal shuts down their megachurch. Writer/director Adamma finds a very interesting way to represent a vulnerable and personal side to this faithful duo while also representing their popular public image.
The movie alternates between a conventional narrative and a mockumentary format – the former portrays private interactions between Lee-Curtis and Trinitie while the latter is supposed to convince movie goers within Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul. that this power couple are on the righteous path to rebuild themselves. The mockumentary is presented as a “rough cut”, so glimpses of Trinitie’s discouragement are caught on tape. The superb balance also subtly reveals what the church’s controversial issue was. Lee-Curtis uses the mockumentary to lighten up the issues as a platform to inspire his recovery and gather forgiveness from others. Trinitie, still comprehending her husband’s mistakes and trying to convince herself that her marriage could still be saved, is much more cautious and contemplative with how they’re represented on film. Her hesitation and reactions are humourous (as Regina Hall has done in previous broad comedies so well), but her layered character features sides of strife and stress that bring more risk to her aspirations. A brief cutaway showing her secretly pleading to the documentarian is one of the film’s many great segments.
Honk For Jesus. Save Your Soul., however, strikes a couple of troublesome notes involving the reveal of Lee-Childs’ ongoing issues. Without giving anything away, two of his concealed personality traits are suggested to be related or go hand-in-hand, which could be deemed as offensive. The Ebos aren’t being callous by associating personal preferences with sexual perversions, but the line separating the two traits is seriously blurred in their movie; potentially provoking some upset emotions from audiences. The characterization didn’t bother me enough to hold the film in contempt but, as storytellers, I hope the Ebos can offer a bit more consideration next time.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie