(To be honest, if any film has ever been worthy of being ripped apart and destroyed by the rhetorical fury of the Trashfilm Guru, it’s the one that I’m about to review below. But I don’t want to force this movie on Ryan so I’ll do my best….)
The 2014 film Right to Believe is currently on Amazon Prime. The plot description said that it’s about a reporter who is forced to “take a stand for his beliefs.” Seeing as how the film was distributed by a faith-based production company, I assumed that this would be one of those tribulation films where one man refuses to accept the “mark of the beast,” which is why I watched. It turned out to be something very different and something much worse.
Tony Morris (Christopher Hunt) is a local reporter who has somehow become the best-known person in his entire town. Strangers literally walk up to him and say, “Hey, you’re Tony Morris from the paper!” Tony, however, has been accused of fabricating a quote by the town’s corrupt mayor and, as a result, he’s been pulled off of the “Wilcox Trial” and assigned to write about the upcoming Gay Pride Day celebrations. Tony’s also a Christian who thinks being gay is a sin. (Of course, Hunt gives such a stiff performance that, when he first said that he had religious objections to the story, I assumed he was lying just to get out of writing it.)
Markus Fry (Timothy Paul Taylor) is organizing the Gay Pride parade. He’s a former Catholic who appears to be perpetually hung over and who responds to every disagreement by theatrically burying his face in his hands. Markus is also a friend of the mayor’s and maybe he can get the mayor to stop trying to ruin Tony’s career which means that Tony could go back to covering …. “THE WILCOX TRIAL!”
(What is the Wilcox Trial? I have no idea but Tony never stops whining about not being allowed to cover it.)
Together, Tony and Markus solve crimes!
No, actually, they don’t. Instead, they meet in a coffee shop called Abbey Road. (Yes, the walls are decorated with posters of the Beatles.) One would think that Tony could just interview Markus and then write up an impartial story about when the parade is going to be held, why Markus thinks the parade is important, and maybe include a comment or two from the people who Markus says are trying to get the parade canceled. That’s what most professional journalists would do. However, Tony is a Christian and his wife, April (Jenn Gotzon Chandler), insists that God wants Tony to interview Markus so that he can show Markus the error of his ways….
Now, at this point, there’s a lot of different directions that the film could go. It could become a creepy horror film, with Tony and his wife stalking Markus. It could become a thoughtful discussion about the role of religion in a changing world. It could become a character study of two men who both have strongly held beliefs. To be honest, I was half-expecting the film to end with Tony finally coming out and admitting that he was gay himself because, seriously, his reaction to having to interview a gay man was just a bit too overboard.
Here’s the thing, though. Yes, Tony and April are judgmental, self-righteous, and bigoted. I mean, they’re portrayed as being so holier-than-thou that they reminded me of Steve and Sarah Newlin, the corrupt televangelists from True Blood. Unfortunately, the film is totally on their side. It takes a while for it to sink in because both of them just come across as being absolutely terrible people but, about halfway through this movie, a little light bulb turned on over my head and I said, “Oh My God, we’re supposed to like these people. What. The. Fuck?”
Over the course of three days, Tony and Markus meet in that Beatles-themed coffee shop. Markus sets up strawmen arguments. Tony knocks them down. Markus argues for science. Tony does the whole, “But who do you think invented gravity?” thing. Markus cites Kinsey. Tony yells that Kinsey and Darwin ruined the world. Markus asks Tony if he thinks the world is flat, because obviously that’s the only possible response that someone could have to someone attacking the theory of evolution. Finally, Markus talks about being molested by a priest and Tony suggests that Markus look into gay conversion therapy. At this point, you really want Markus to just punch the living shit out of Tony but instead, Markus thanks Tony for speaking to him respectfully.
But we’re not done yet! Suddenly, a man pulls a gun in the middle of the coffeeshop and threatens to kill Markus. Tony talks him out of it. (If this movie took place in the 50s, Tony would be the segregationist bragging about not being a member of the KKK.) What’s amazing is that, during the whole scene with the gun, everyone else in the coffeeshop just keeps drinking their coffee as if nothing’s happening. I mean, it’s not that big of a coffeeshop.
And then Tony is approached by a woman who, because she’s wearing a leather jacket, we’re meant to assume is a lesbian. She asks about conversion therapy….
I mean, my God! As I’ve written on this site before, I have a weakness for low-budget, semi-amateur films and I’ve certainly never been the type to dismiss a film just because it has a “faith-based” theme. But, seriously, Right To Believe is one of the worst and most thoroughly offensive films that I’ve ever seen. From the terrible acting to the non-existent camera movement to the clumsy script, nothing works from a technical standpoint. And that’s not even considering the film’s deeply homophobic message.
Being gay is not a sin. Making a film this bad should be.