August is usually the time of the movie year for silly gross-out comedies, cheaply-made slasher films, and studio inventory they never found the right time to release. And Hollywood is usually very uncomfortable dealing with spiritual themes or religion as anything other than a sham. That makes two of this year’s August releases especially refreshing.
“Henry Poole is Here” is the story of a man who thinks there is nothing left for him. He finds that what he sees as a bad stucco job appears to his neighbor (whose name is Esperanza, which means “hope”) and to the check-out girl at the grocery story (whose name is Patience) like the face of Jesus. And then what looks like a drop of blood appears on the wall. The movie is surprisingly respectful of faith — and doubt — and the clergyman, played by George Lopez, is a thoughtful and compassionate man. The story is a bit reminiscent of the underseen Tortilla Heaven.
And then there’s last year’s Sundance hit, “Hamlet 2.” It is very raunchy and profane. In part, the plot deals with an outrageous high school production of an original play that has Hamlet going back in time to prevent tragedy. Yes, there is a musical number called “Rock Me Sexy Jesus.” Unquestionably, it will offend some in the audience. But in the film, the believers who come to the play to protest end up applauding because, the Jesus character is the one who inspires everyone else to be better and more forgiving. I found it unexpectedly sweet, sincere, and even reverent.