The DVD Report #782

Father Stu is an odd duck of a movie.

Based on the true story of Stuart Long, a Golden Gloves champion boxer turned would-be actor turned priest, the film was the brainchild of star Mark Wahlberg who began working on the film in 2016 with writer-director David O. Russell who directed him in 2010’s The Fighter. Russell eventually lost interest and Wahlberg turned to Rosalind Ross, co-star Mel Gibson’s partner since 2014 and the mother of Gibson five-year-old youngest son. The film marks Ross’ writing and directing debut.

With a 36% Metacritic score, a 40% Rotten Tomatoes score, and a 95% audience score, you get the impression that something is amiss, and you would be right.

The film appeals primarily to fans of Wahlberg, an actor who hasn’t had a major critical success since 2013’s Lone Survivor. Like 2020’s Joe Bell, Father Stu is a well-intentioned film about a real-life character that fails to do justice to its subject.

Joe Bell was about a father grieving for his late son, a gay teenager who left home after being tormented by school bullies. It was well acted by Wahlberg, Connie Britton as his wife, Gary Sinise as a compassionate sheriff, and newcomers Maxwell Jenkins and Reid Miller as Wahlberg’s sons, but the execution was poor.

Father Stu spends too much time on Wahlberg’s character as a rebel characterized as having aged out of boxing. The truth is that he was only 24 and could have transitioned from amateur to professional boxing but chose not to.

Wahlberg is 50 and looks it. He’s way too old to be endearing as an overage teenager as he’s portrayed here. If he wanted to do justice to the character, he should have spent more time playing him closer to his own age when he was dying of myositis, a nerve disorder close to ALS aka Lou Gehring Disease, which would have given the film more dramatic heft. Instead, most of the film is about Stu the alcoholic rebel, a failure at everything he does until he becomes a seminary student after a near fatal motorcycle accident.

Long wasn’t a failure in real life up to that time. The film bypasses his five-year stint as manager of the prestigious Norton Simon Art Museum named after Jennifer Jones’ philanthropist third husband. It was coming home from work at the museum, not leaving a bar as depicted in the film, when he had his accident.

Long’s journey from atheist to Catholic convert is portrayed as something he does to impress a deeply religious Catholic girl that he hoped to marry but dumps after he suddenly decides to become a priest. The accident occurred when he was 30. He didn’t enter the seminary until he was 34. He was 43 when he was ordained and served seven years as a priest through his debilitating illness in his native Helena, Montana before he died in 2014.

Mel Gibson, 67, and Jacki Weaver, 75, play his anti-religious parents. Malcolm McDowell, with a Mexican accent, plays an authoritarian priest with an Irish name. This is not another Boys Town or Angels with Dirty Faces in which Spencer Tracy and Pat O’Brien, respectively, made you believe they really were priests. Nor is it anything like The Keys of the Kingdom or The Cardinal in which Gregory Peck and Tom Tryon, respectively, gave gravitas to priests dealing with issues that went well beyond the scope of their jobs.

Father Stu is available on Blu-ray and standard DVD from Sony.

Father Stu is not the only newly released biopic. Both 2005’s Kinky Boots and 1997’s Wilde have been released in long overdue Blu-ray upgrades.

Directed by Julian Jarrold (Becoming Jane), Kinky Boots stars Joel Edgerton and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the dramedy that provided the basis for Cindy Lauper’s 2013 Tony-award-winning musical. They were, respectively, the young fourth generation owner of a failing men’s shoe factory and a drag queen in need of a high heeled shoe to support his weight while singing and dancing in his act.

Edgerton (the future star of Warrior, Loving, Boy Erased) was not yet a household name, but Ejiofor (later Oscar-nominated for 12 Years a Slave) was already a star in the U.K. He had received numerous awards for Stephen Frears’ 2003 crime drama Dirty Pretty Things and would receive even more for Kinky Boots in which he performs everything from “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” to “These Boots Are Made for Walking” to a fare-thee-well.

The actors are great together as they form an unlikely partnership, but the entire cast is wonderful with Sarah-Jane Potts, Nick Frost, and the always wonderful Linda Bassett (East Is East) the standouts.

Paramount’s Blu-ray release imports the extras from the 2006 DVD.

Wilde, which was previously available on a Region B-locked Blu-ray, has been reissued by Sony region-free making it available on U.S. Region A Blu-ray for the first time.

Stephen Fry led a strong cast as Oscar Wilde with Jude Law in one of his earliest successes as Wilde’s lover Bosie (officially Lord Alfred Douglas) whose father, the Marquess of Queensberry, defames him, leading to Wilde’s libel suit against the Marquess, which backfires on the famed wit. Jennifer Ehle as Wilde’s wife, Vanessa Redgrave as his mother, Tom Wilkinson as the Marquess, and Michael Sheen as Wilde’s earlier male lover, also provide excellent performances.

Directed by Brian Gilbert (Tom & Viv) with a screenplay by Julian Mitchell (Another Country) from the biography by Richard Ellmann, it was the first film about the iconic British author and playwright (The Picture of Dorian Gray, The Importance of Being Earnest) since the dueling biopics of 1960, Gregory Ratoff’s Oscar Wilde with Robert Morley reprising his stage role and Ken Hughes’ The Trials of Oscar Wilde with Peter Finch. It is more explicit than the earlier depictions, which focused primarily on the trials.

The Sony Blu-ray imports all the extras from the 2002 DVD which were missing from the earlier Region B-locked Blu-ray.

This week’s new releases include the The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and the Ultra UHD 4K Blu-ray debut of George Stevens’ Giant.

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