*** (out of four)
Are penises and clitoral stimulation really part of God’s plan? Should women avoid preaching so as not to seem like they’re teaching men? Corinne (Vera Farmiga) considers these and other questions as her commitment to Jesus strengthens and lessens throughout her life. John Hawkes (“Winter’s Bone”) co-stars in a small but significant role as Corinne’s dad.
The buzz: Actors frequently act in their own directorial debuts, and hopefully Farmiga (Oscar nominated for “Up in the Air”) can make more of an impact than Philip Seymour Hoffman did with “Jack Goes Boating.” Obviously, just because someone is wonderful in front of the camera doesn’t mean he or she excels behind it.
The verdict: I think a movie about a woman gradually questioning her beliefs needs to detail how and why people develop those opinions and what specifically they get out of them. In that respect, “Higher Ground” fails. Yet Farmiga demonstrates skill in establishing a gently fluid pace to a story with not much forward momentum but plenty of built-in conflict. At what point does someone who follows blindly decide to ask questions, and how upset are they by the lack of answers? Personally this line of thinking has always been provocative to me, and Farmiga recognizes that some may see faith as a generic way to stabilize weakness, while others are happy to subscribe for such a reliable source of strength. The tension is the point.
Did you know? Among a number of great lines in the film, this is my favorite: “Pregnancy is the lady hippo’s crowning glory.” Sometimes language is awesome.
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