Saturday, March 28, 2015

“Do You Believe?”: Yes

If you sit through “Do You Believe?”—now playing at a multiplex near you but not for long—you may ask yourself, as I did, what was the difference between that well-made independent film and hundreds of other affecting, character-driven stories that pass for what are known these days as indie hits. 

“Do You Believe?” artfully weaves a dozen life stories in a compelling chain of circumstance with enough recognizable faces to make you think you’ve seen another good “little” Hollywood movie.

There’s Sean Astin, fresh from the “Lord of the Rings,” playing a young hospital doc; and Mira Sorvino (anyone remember “Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion”?) as a homeless, single mother living in her car with her cute daughter. The still recognizable Lee Majors and Cybill Shepherd play an aging, puffy-faced couple mourning the loss of their only child after far too many years; and Brian “Boz” Bosworth, once a Seattle Seahawks linebacker, turns in an affecting piece of work as a charitable ex-con who may be dying.

The cast is not exactly A-list, but it’s no worse than B-plus.

The always compelling Delroy Lindo (pictured) stirs the drink as a wandering, cross-rolling evangelist who asks a pastor (Ted McGinley) if he really believes in the Cross of Christ. The pastor, in turn, distributes hand-held crosses at a Sunday-evening service, and these prove to be catalysts of change. Lives intersect and begin influencing one another. Only Astin’s doctor, a confirmed atheist, remains unmoved by the end of the action.

The difference between this film and so many bigger-box-office films, of course, is Jesus Christ. “Do You Believe?” is “Magnolia” with Jesus instead of frogs.

To its credit, “Do You Believe?” is a full hour shorter than “Magnolia,” which I confess is one of my all-time favorite films. Exiting the cinema today, I realized that I love “Magnolia” because—though it’s R-rated where “Believe” is PG-13, and though it seems a thousand ways cynical (e.g. with Tom Cruise as a self-help guru teaching men to “seduce and destroy”)—“Magnolia” finally confesses a belief in supernatural intervention (the frogs).

Because its intervention is Christian, “Do You Believe?” unfortunately will probably serve as a sort of self-proving litmus test. Many who do believe will see it, and they probably will enjoy it as I did. Those who don’t believe will almost certainly stay away—far away. One glance at the poster (inset) and they’ll vote for some piece of big-budget trash.

That’s too bad, because there’s a good story here, good storytelling, wonderful acting, characters to cheer and weep for.

See “Do You Believe?” as soon as you can. As noted, it is likely to be gone soon.

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