Retro Television Reviews: The Weekend Nun (dir by Jeannot Szwarc)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1972’s The Weekend Nun!  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

By day, Marjorie Walker (Joanna Pettet) is a probation officer who, some might say, cares just a little too much.

By night and on the weekends, she’s Sister Mary Damian, a nun who has taken the three vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.

Mother Bonaventure (Ann Sothern) isn’t sure that she’s happy about Sister Damian working as a probation officer.  And the tough and cynical Detective Chuck Jardine (Vic Morrow) certainly isn’t happy when he discovers that the reason why Marjorie has never invited him into her home for a drink is because she lives at a convent.  But Marjorie is determined to make a difference, especially in the life of a troubled teen runaway named Audree (Kay Lenz).

Now, this may sound like the premise of a socially relevant sitcom and, indeed, The Weekend Nun is one of those titles that might lead some to expect wacky hijinks and an intrusive laugh track.  However, The Weekend Nun is not only loosely based on a true story but the film also takes itself very seriously.  From the minute that Sister Damian agrees to take part in a program that would allow her to work a real job during the day while returning to the convent at night, she’s exposed to the harsh realities of the world.  She goes from being sheltered to dealing with distraught parents, drug addicts, teen prostitutes, and violent criminals.  Because Captain Richardson (James Gregory) doesn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable, he hides the fact that she’s a nun.  Of course, this leads to be people like Chuck Jardine wondering why Marjorie is so shocked when she witnesses the thing that he has to deal with a day-to-day basis.

And, indeed, the film’s biggest flaw is that Marjorie is often portrayed as being ridiculously naïve.  The film acts as if spending time in a convent is somehow the equivalent of spending a decade hiding out in a bomb shelter or something.  (Speaking as a Catholic school survivor, nuns are usually some of the least naïve people around.)  Marjorie is portrayed as being such a wide-eyed innocent that it’s hard not to wonder why she was hired to work as a probation officer in the first place.  Of course, Marjorie quickly gets an education on just how dangerous and unforgiving life on the streets can be and she soon has to make a choice between being a nun or being a probation officer.  Will she give her life to God or will she potentially give it to Vic Morrow?

Joanna Pettet overplays Marjorie’s innocence but that’s more the fault of the script than anything else.  James Gregory, Vic Morrow, and Ann Sothern are all believable as the authority figures in Marjorie’s life and Kay Lenz has a few good scenes as the teenage runaway who Marjorie tries to save.  Beverly Garland has a small but brief role as Lenz’s horrifically unconcerned mother.  It’s a well-acted film, regardless of any other flaws.

The Weekend Nun is not perfect but it’s still preferable to The Flying Nun.  It’s a sincerely heartfelt film, one that’s earnest in a way that can seem a bit quaint but which is still likable when watched today.  For better or worse, there’s not a hint of snark to be found.

One response to “Retro Television Reviews: The Weekend Nun (dir by Jeannot Szwarc)

  1. Pingback: Lisa Marie’s Week In Review: 3/13/23 — 3/19/23 | Through the Shattered Lens

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