Movie Magazine International

The Apostle

USA - 1997

Movie Review By Andrea Chase

Robert Duvall is the writer, director, executive producer, and star of "The Apostle," but don't let that put you off. This is not a self-aggrandizing exercise in ego-inflated histrionics. This is a star turn in the very best sense of the phrase. The audience is treated to Duvall's craft, skill, and talent. He's one of the finest actors working today and the entire film shows us why as Duvall creates Sonny, a complex, flawed character, that is never less than mesmerizing throughout the film's two hours plus running time.

Duvall behind the camera is equally impressive. His writing perfectly captures the rhythms and patterns of speech found in Texas and Louisiana, where the film is set, and the languid pace of life there, too. The performance he elicits from Farrah Fawcett, as Sonny's estranged wife balancing compassion for and annoyance at him, is outstanding, especially in contrast to her recent video foray.

Sonny is a charismatic evangelical preacher filled to overflowing with the Holy Spirit. His calling is for more than preaching, he's compulsive about founding churches, too. And here's the part that sets this story apart from all the others about fundamentalist preachers, instead of fire and brimstone and consigning all but the few true believers to hellfire and damnation, Sonny's religion is based on love and inclusion. This film shows the fellowship and real joy that it people find in it. Sonny's churches are for sinners, not saints, and they're welcomed with open, loving arms, black, white, rich, and poor. It's what religion can and should be. Speaking as a non-christian, I found it refreshing and uplifting.

Sonny is good for the flocks, but he's a bit hard on those closest to him. His wife, worn out by Sonny's ferocious zeal, has taken up with another, younger man. As a result, Sonny loses not only his family, but also his churches. Religion has let him down but instead of turning his back on it, he strays in an Old Testament way and then goes on an eccentric quest to discover God's plan for him.

And that's what this story is about. The mysterious way the universe has of working things out. Stick around for "The Apostle's" closing credits and the exquisite punch line Duvall's written on that subject.

© 1998 - Andrea Chase - Air Date: 1/28/98

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