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Mass Appeal

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PG
1984

Mass Appeal is an earnest study of church politics, vocation, and the challenge of mentorship, wrapped in a heartfelt drama. Directed by Glenn Jordan, this 1984 American film presents an engaging narrative capturing broad philosophical, moral, and spiritual questions underpinning the Catholic Church and priesthood. It boasts a powerful cast spearheaded by Jack Lemmon, Zeljko Ivanek, and Charles Durning, who bring the movie to life with their fine, nuanced performances.

Jack Lemmon portrays Father Tim Farley, a charismatic but complacent Catholic priest who has become comfortable with his affluent, suburban parish. He savors his position, relishing the adoration of his congregation, and enjoys the comforts and perks that come with his vocation. Farley is content with his routine and doesn't wish to make waves in the church or challenge its dogmas.

His world shakes, however, with the arrival of Mark Dolson, played by Zeljko Ivanek, a passionate, confrontational seminary student challenging the church’s doctrines and yearning to uplift the masses. Dolson's progressive ideas and outspoken ways immediately place him at odds with the church hierarchy and, naturally, Father Farley. Viewers are then taken on a ride as these two figures, representing the old and the new, spar and push the boundaries of their beliefs and principles.

Charles Durning gives a solid performance as Monsignor Thomas Burke, reflecting the rigid, traditional views of the Church. His character adds an interesting dynamic to the relationship between the seasoned priest Farley and the young, idealistic Dolson.

As the plot unravels, Father Farley finds himself tasked with guiding young Dolson toward a more conventional path, an experience that shakes Farley's own complacency. The movie is a fascinating exploration of the dichotomy between the entrenched practices of the church and the need for reform to keep faith alive in a changing world.

The screenplay, adapted by Bill C. Davis from his own stage play, sketches the characters brilliantly, lending depth and simplicity to the narrative. The tightly woven story is a medley of intense dialogues, ideological clashes, and soul-searching moments that provide thought-provoking insights into the dilemmas of faith and the struggle of maintaining personal integrity in a structured institution.

Lemmon's Father Farley embodies the charm, wit, and everyday wisdom that connects with the audience, enabling them to trace his journey from cynicism and complacency to a deeper understanding of his vocation's purpose. The talented Zeljko Ivanek, in one of his early roles as Mark Dolson, impresses with a staunch resolve and firebrand rhetoric, contrasting sharply with the seasoned priest's easy-going demeanor.

Victor J. Kemper's cinematography beautifully captures the suburban setting and the insides of the church, enhancing the film's overall mood. The authentic depiction of the clergy lifestyle and the accurate reproduction of liturgical elements underscore the effort put into maintaining realism in the film.

Mass Appeal's strength lies in its ability to illuminate profound philosophical and theological issues through the prism of human relationships and personal growth. Despite its heavy subject matter, the film never loses its accessibility and humor, making it engaging and relatable to not just those familiar with religious dogma, but to anyone interested in the dynamics of mentorship, personal growth, and institutional critique.

The narratives of Father Farley and Mark Dolson intertwine beautifully in this engaging movie, making Mass Appeal a compelling viewing for those who enjoy character-driven dramas filled with humor, intense personal narratives, and incisive critique of conventional norms. This 1984 film is not just about the functioning or ideology of the Church but also a study of human adaptability, beliefs, and the need for constant introspection and reform.

Mass Appeal is a Comedy, Drama movie released in 1984. It has a runtime of 99 minutes. Critics and viewers have rated it moderate reviews, with an IMDb score of 6.7..

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6.7/10
Director
Glenn Jordan
Stars
Jack Lemmon, eljko Ivanek
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