A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Good Catholic is about an idealistic young priest faced with a choice between his calling and what might be true love. It's a romantic dramedy, but it tackles faith-based questions. While there isn't any violence, and both sex and drinking are extremely minimal, there is a fair amount of language, including one "f---ing." Other words run the gamut from "s--t" to "d--k"; some viewers might find any strong language objectionable coming from priests. The movie also characterizes clergymen as real, flawed human beings, which could be an issue for some. But they're all striving to do their best and help others.
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What's the story?
In THE GOOD CATHOLIC, idealistic young priest Daniel (Zachary Spicer) falls for a troubled visitor to his confessional. Jane (Wrenn Schmidt) is a charming, quick-witted nonconformist musician who claims to be dying. Her repeated appearances in Daniel's booth quickly progress past a religious rite into a blossoming friendship that's clearly headed for more. When Daniel can't contain his growing feelings, he seeks help from his fellow clergymen: stern Victor (Danny Glover) and eccentric Ollie (John C. McGinley).
Is it any good?
This dramedy offers a gentle look at a dedicated young priest's struggle with strong romantic feelings. The Good Catholic fares well in the company of the charming Jane; Schmidt handles her character's snarky wit and impassioned singing well, while also showing Jane's growing emotions. Her dialogue sometimes smacks of eternal meet-cute, but Schmidt sells it with the right swirl of sass: "You're a priest, I'm dying; I totally get it. But under different circumstances, we're totally dating right now." Veteran McGinley, as basketball- and fast-food-loving Ollie, gets most of the laughs, while also convincingly grounding his freewheeling clergyman in humanism. Glover offers grounding as authority figure Victor. But it's Spicer's movie as Daniel, and in his first feature lead (he also co-produced), he delivers. His Daniel is likable without being overly sweet. He holds the screen alongside McGinley and Glover, and his chemistry with Schmidt works.
All of that said, the film doesn't bring the goods, either philosophically or theologically. It's structured around homilies by each of the clergymen, but their messages are muddled. The central question of why a priest as dedicated as Daniel should either be denied happiness in love or be defrocked is never addressed. Rather, it's taken as given, so the film instead tries to convey a largely internal struggle without windows into Daniel's thinking. At the climactic dinner party, you have to wonder what Daniel expected to happen -- or why he set that situation up in the first place. Perhaps the filmmakers thought that topic (questioning the discipline of celibacy) too volatile for a romantic dramedy, though it has certainly been explored before (think Keeping the Faith or The Thorn Birds). The script, by director Shoulberg, both hits and misses with character quirks and occasionally forced dialogue, but The Good Catholic's sins are mostly forgivable.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about who The Good Catholic is intended to appeal to. Do you think only audiences of faith will appreciate it, or does it have something to offer lay audiences as well? How do you think the intended audience affects the filmmaking process?
Does the film present the clergy in ways that surprised you? Do you think it was fair to clergy, or do you think it made light of the institution?
What was the central problem for Daniel? Why couldn't he continue to do his job and be with Jane? What choice did he seem to make at the end? Why do you think that, and what did you think of his choice?
- In theaters: September 8, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: October 24, 2017
- Cast: Zachary Spicer, John C. McGinley, Danny Glover
- Director: Paul Shoulberg
- Studio: Broad Green Pictures
- Genre: Comedy
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: language including a sexual reference
- Last updated: September 20, 2019
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