FATHER STU (2022)
Devoid of likability and brimming with unearned preachiness, Father Stu may have the best of intentions behind it, but it fails to earn the emotional connection it demands and never once does justice for the titular figure.
A directionless boxer and agonistic troublemaker turns to a future as a Catholic priest after a severe accident, seeking a future helping others as he deals with his own personal curveballs life throws at him in Father Stu. This has to be one of the more frustrating movies in quite a long time as it squanders every opportunity it has to deliver what it hopes to. While Stu encounters tragic turns that alter the course of his life, Father Stu fails to depict the inspiration we’re told his journey has produced, save for a brief focus on this at the end. Wahlberg, who has referred to this film as a passion project, is simply fine in the lead role, but often times I couldn’t even understand what he was saying. All the more confusing is why he had an accent whatsoever as the real Stu didn’t have one in the clip that played following the movie. The portrayal of Stu comes across more as him being a troublemaker with a new idea of something he’s like to pursue (clergy), but never dives deep enough to understand the reason for his ambitions (beyond a vision he has). It’s quite remarkable just how much of a misfire this is.
The casting of Mel Gibson also is quite strange as the actor has real life issues that are hard to ignore through his performance as Stu’s absentee father. Are we supposed to feel like he’s been redeemed at the end? I certainly didn’t. Instead, Father Stu is two hours of a troubled family continuing to battle hardships without much of a call for empathy from the audience aside for depictions of Stu’s condition later in the movie. You want to root for everyone involved, and was this a documentary I probably would, but Rosalind Ross’ script never shines the light on the growth of the characters, nor does her direction do anything to elevate this film to what it should be. Stu and his family deserved better.
Father Stu hits theaters this Friday.
Photo from Los Angeles Times