Mark Wahlberg drives Father Stu with his devoted performance.
Father Stu is a passion project from producer and star Mark Wahlberg, a famously devout Catholic. He put his own money into financing the film, which depicts the life of boxer-turned-priest Father Stuart Long. The film also stars fellow Catholic Mel Gibson as Bill, Stu’s estranged father, and Jacki Weaver as his supportive mother, Kathleen.
Father Stu is reminiscent of his other acclaimed boxing biopic ‘The Fighter.’ This film opens with a ripped Mark Wahlberg engaged in a boxing match, exclaiming his dreams of hitting the big time. However, his dreams are dashed when a mysterious condition ends his fighting career. Though struggling with alcoholism and grief over the childhood death of his brother, Stu then decides he’s not too old to move to Los Angeles and pursue an acting career. A life-threatening motorcycle accident then pivots Stu towards becoming a Catholic priest.
The central performance by Academy Award Nominee Mark Wahlberg should go down as the most dedicated of his career. You can tell how much the subject matter means to Wahlberg by his physical transformation to portray Stu’s declining health. Wahlberg reportedly chugged olive oil and ate over 11,000 calories a day for six weeks to gain the 30 pounds necessary to play Stu!
Writer-director Rosalind Ross’ script skillfully moves between hilarious and heartbreaking. ‘Father Stu’ never feels like it will veer into becoming the religious version of Patch Adams. The reasoning behind Stu’s motivations, as well as his challenges towards becoming ordained, is always evident. He’s not just moving from one gag to the next.
I give Father Stu 3.5 out of 5 stars. Though reverential toward Catholicism itself, the language and crudeness might turn off religious viewers. Similarly, the religious subject matter might not be for everyone. Anyone familiar with Wahlberg or Gibson’s careers knows how devoted the two are toward their religion. Compared to recent releases, this movie is relatively short, at two hours and four minutes. Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a solid drama with a splendid lead performance, Father Stu is worth watching.