Screen Door Jesus

The reason that Screen Door Jesus feels like it was based on short stories is because it was.  Writer/director Kirk Davis based his movie on the short stories by Christopher Cook.  Everything starts when Mother Harper (Cynthia Dorn, The Anarchist Cookbook, The Rookie) notices an image that looks like Jesus on her screen door.  As news of this spreads, the public congregates around her house, and Davis begins exploring the people of Bethlehem, Texas, and why they are coming to see Harper's door.  Davis is not concerned with a single story with a definitive beginning and end, which may frustrate some viewers.  Instead, he wants to be more ambitious, and show how all the people and situations relate.  It's all very very Robert Altman/PT Anderson-like way.

Davis made the smart decision to use a cast consisting mostly of unknowns.  Everybody has acting experience, but usually its in supporting roles. Basically, there is no easily recognizable face here.  By doing this, Davis gives Screen Door Jesus a highly authentic feel.  Nobody is distracted by seeing a familiar face, and instead, the audience can focus on the stories.  There is a sprawling languid feel to the film.  When people say a film feels "Southern," they typically mean that things movie a bit slower.  This is true of Screen Door Jesus, and with the sheer number of stories and characters, one can sometimes get the feeling of being lost.

Bethlehem seems to be the flashpoint Kirk throws out all sorts of ethical questions.  The most memorable character is Duane (Mark Dalton, Desperado), a security guard and bar singer.  He is wrestling with his homophobic coworker Hank Jeters (Josh Berry, Friday Night Lights), who sides with a group protesting homosexuality.  Duane may have a history with Ronette (Scarlett McAlister, The Missing, Dr. T and the Women), whom Mayor Huckaby (Richard Dillard, The Keeper, Friday Night Lights) eyes lasciviously.  Premarital sex, possible religious condemnation due to sinning (in this case skinny-dipping), and issues of fate (should one go to the doctor to try to cure something, or let God work his way) all figure in some way with the plot.  Who would have thought that so much could happen in a small town?

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 59 minutes, Rated R for language and some sexual content.

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