Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Sympathy for Delicious - Hybriding Faith Healing and Rock & Roll

There's an odd movie that buckles down on modern day faith admixed with rock and roll. The brew is a jittery admixture, but you can't brandish it as trite. It's also the directorial debut of one of Hollywood's formidable leading man, Mark Ruffalo.


Dean is a homeless paraplegic who lives in his car and spends his days queuing for free food given by a charitable organization run by a priest, Father Joe (Mark Ruffalo). He was once a promising DJ, a scratch artist, who earlier figured in a motorcycle accident.

The day after a bungled session with a renowned faith healer, Dean wakes up with a strange sensation draping over his hands. No, he wasn't "healed", but something is happening. When he inadvertently touches an invalid homeless guy living on skid row, the guy falls before eventually - and miraculously - healed! In another scene, an old lady with Retinitis Pigmentosa (an untreatable cause of blindness) is able to see!

When Father Joe learns of this, the priest strikes a deal with the reluctant "healer". The former will pay for Dean's motel room in exchange for the latter's daily healing sessions. But Dean learns of the priest's deceit when he finds out that the priest has been accepting huge donations for Dean's healing (think $250,000), while Dean receives a pittance of $48 a day for his sessions. As a consequence of this, Dean turns to a performing band who earlier invited him to audition as a DJ.

Ariel (Juliette Lewis) lures Dean into the fold, despite the band's front man's displeasure. In fact The Stain (Orlando Bloom) would rather do away with Dean, called "Delicious D" in the underground circuit. What becomes of cantankerous Dean outside the clutches of the opportunistic priest? Will he find his salvation in his new career as scratch artist-cum-healer touring the country for the band's profitable "Healapalooza"?

The disparate ideas make an awkward ride into the story, mixing rock and roll and faith healing, saliently underlining the fact that what Dean has is a "gift" despite his utter faithlessness. You can't help but question why he had to suddenly attain such endowment. And why can't he heal himself? But then there are mysteries obdurate enough for man to ultimately comprehend.

The film, Ruffalo's first film as a director, gathers a slew of dependable actors. There's Laura Linney as the band's calculating manager; there's the amazing Juliette Lewis; Noah Emmerich as the eternally hopeful paraplegic; and Orlando Bloom who plays the peculiar lead singer. Bloom, particularly, plays against type. He is brassy and uncouth, performing on stage mostly half naked, and then cursing back stage.

Though the material is on the whole a bit unsatisfactory, much of the material is buoyed by respectable performances all around, including Christopher Thornton - who plays Dean O'Dwyer, the film's protagonist. Thornton, who wrote the script, is himself a real life paraplegic, paralyzed from the waste down after an eventful mountain climbing accident.

As the film draws to a close, we finally realize that salvation is a state of mind; and some of the miracles that we pray for come in the most unusual packages, and in moments we least expect.

Lead singer The Stain (Orlando Bloom) with band manager Nina Hogue (Laura Linney).

Dean and Father Joe

Christopher Thornton. Right photo shows him in a stage play.

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo

Orlando Bloom plays against type as "The Stain"

Orlando Bloom

Orlando Bloom as The Stain

Juliette Lewis plays Ariel. When she OD's, will Dean be able to heal her?

Juliette Lewis

Laura Linney

Laura Linney

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