Written by Janus Cercone
Directed by Richard Pearce
Starring Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Lolita Davidovich, Liam Neeson, Lukas Haas, Meat Loaf, and Philip Seymour Hoffman
Released by: Paramount
My Advice: Eh, rent it if there’s nothing else.
Jonas Nightingale (Martin) is a faith healer and he’s a good one. There’s only little problem. He’s only in it for the money. The only faith he has is for the suckers who fill his tent every night to receive salvation. He travels across the county with his tour bus and tractor trailer rigs full of equipment looking for places to set up his tent and separate people from their money. His team has got this down to a science. The ushers who are seating people are writing down little bits of information that they overhear and pass them along back to Jane (Winger) who is connected to Jonas via a wireless speaker that he wears in his ear during the show. She passes along the information to make it look like Jonas is actually communicating with the Holy Spirit. The local sheriff (Neeson), who also has a thing for Jane, is on to Jonas and vows to shut him down one way or another. All of their lives are changed when a little boy with bad legs (Haas) sets foot on the stage and is really healed.
This is a very dark role for Steve Martin. I really believe the reason this movie didn’t do any better when it was released is that audiences like Martin better when he’s the good guy. In this movie, he’s really the antagonist in a struggle with himself. Winger is very good. She and Neeson create a nicely understated relationship together, and her relationship with Martin is bittersweet at best. The problem with Martin in this role is that he plays it so dark, there’s nothing for the audience to hold on to and like about him. The story also gets kind of bogged down in the middle. There is only a little scene to set up the young boy with the bad legs who changes everyone’s life forever and it’s just not enough to prepare us for the scenes at the end of the movie so it can really impact the characters let alone us, the viewers.
There’s no features to be had on here, which is a shame. Granted, the movie didn’t do very well, but a behind-the-scenes featurette would have been nice. A commentary might be out of the question but an interview with the director and perhaps Martin would have been worthwhile as well.
If you find yourself in the movie store with nothing better to watch, you might want to pick this one up. Just make sure that you’ve exhausted all of the other options before resorting to this one.