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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Leap of Faith (released in 1992) - A movie about a faith healer, starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger

This American comedy Drama is directed by Richard Pearce and stars Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson and Lolita Davidovich in the lead roles. This hard hitting drama focuses on the faith healer who cons innocents in the name of god and takes from where earlier docu-drama like Elmer Gantry and Jarjoe left off.
Steve Martin stars as Jonas Nightengale who is a con-man faith healer. He holds revival meetings and defrauds the congregation with the promise of miracles. Helping him is his back stage manager, Jane who studies the floor plan convincingly and transmits the information via a small ear-piece. So all the technological marvels are used to convey where the healer could find a crippled man, or a pregnant teenager. Jonas pounces on them with his hallelujahs and with his intuition forces them to blab more about their condition. The effect is so smooth a transition from a believer to a miracle seeker.
As this faith healer show rumbles around the American small town with its special effects, technological jamboree and a gospel choir, the bus breaks down in a small town of Kansas. This impoverished town has nothing going for it as no rains have blessed the parched landscape. As the bus waits for the spare parts Jonas and Jane plan to hold a revival meeting to kill time. So the show is all set to begin if only for the small hitch in the form the local sheriff, Will Braverman. Will does not believe in all the this bunkum of miracles and sees Jonas and his troops for what they are, crooks. He wants to protect the town money from flowing in to their hands and tries his best to stop their show.

Jonas deputes Jane to seduce Braverman and Jane ends up falling for him. Jonas also falls for a pretty local waitress, Marva, who has a crippled brother, Boyd. Marva does not have faith in all the hocus pocus and Jonas takes her up as a conquest. Boyd believes in miracles and feels that Jonas can help him walk. Initially taking a caustic view, Jonas calls Boyd “Tiny Tim” and tries to palm him off. But as the movie progresses he tries to warn off Boyd as Jonas can see himself only as a crook. But a crook can also deliver hope and faith promises to be a powerful instrument for healing. In the end the crooks and the believers are forced to examine themselves.
This is one of the powerful movies of the 80's which examines faith as an instrument of influence. The first half of the movie has Steve Martin prancing about in his silver suits among dazzling lights mouthing biblical quotations and hallelujahs all the time listening to the back stage instructions. The toppling wheelchairs, the back stage plans, the market research, the listened in conversations and all the tricks of the trade of faith healing is laid bare. Steve Martin does a fantastic job of the conman with his inimical wit and cynicism. Anther notable performance is of Debra Winger as Jane who does all the back stage operations. Although her romance with the local sheriff is a bit contrived, it gives a little deviation for the story. The movie forces one to examine the process of belief and the show of believing. As Steve quotes in the movie “if I get the job done What difference does it make?” and he himself receives the answer as “It makes all the difference in the world”.
This movie received decent box office returns and also critical acclaim. It was also adapted a Broadway musical and opened successfully. Last but not the least the musical score is wonderful with the real-life singers like La Chanze, Delores Hall and Albertina Walker who do a beautiful job of playing Jonas's gospel choir. A good movie which entertains and informs.

Leap of Faith (released in 1992) - A movie about a faith healer, starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger

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