I noticed this movie Christian Mingle: The Movie show up on Netflix the other day and was intrigued–and commenters have mentioned it off and on as particularly cringeworthy. So why not spend a glorious day watching it?
A Demographic Catastrophe.
It’s no secret that Christianity has a serious demographics issue on its hands. The religion’s various churches now skew heavily female–and have for years been skewing heavily older, less-educated, arguably more sex-negative, and, well, heavier–than the non-churchgoing population.
A person falling into any one of those demographics is going to have more trouble finding love, but combine them all and you’ve got a religious landscape that is turning into a romantic minefield. I’ve written about this quandary before, and things have only gotten worse since then.
So it should not surprise us that we’re starting to see a lot of writing and teaching coming out of fundagelicalism about finding love the Jesus-approved way. While looking up this movie today I ran into some dating reality show called It Takes a Church and watched a few minutes of it to discover that it is way more cringeworthy than you probably already think it is. Christian Mingle is noteworthy in its baldfaced product placement, but certainly neither unique nor new in terms of what it’s trying to accomplish and who it’s trying to reach.
As this demographic shift continues to ravage churches, leaders in the religion have a choice. They can either work with those shifts or drill down on their party line about how to find a lifelong relationship.
Guess which way this movie went?
Christian Mingle: The Movie (2014) is a 103-minute infomercial for the dating site of the same name. The site itself is part of a cluster of special-interest dating sites owned by Spark Networks; it began in 2001 and joined JDate.com (which is aimed at Jewish people). I notice that the parent company also owns a variety of other niche dating services, many aimed at minorities, people in fringe religious communities, and larger women.
It’s hard to fathom why these folks thought they needed a movie to sell their service. Did they feel that their sales weren’t good enough? Because as we’ll see as we watch the movie, the plot rapidly makes clear that this is a terrible service for a variety of reasons. Did they think that this movie would demonstrate the truth of the party line itself? Because whoa nelly it does not do that at all.
RottenTomatoes.com doesn’t have enough professional critical reviews of the movie to give it an official rating, though the one it does have is not happy with the movie at all. The site’s users themselves, meanwhile, rated it 29%–and the users who gave it low ratings appear to have actually watched the movie, unlike the brigading Christians who dumped into the site at periodic but very distinct intervals; most of them very clearly didn’t see it themselves but had to give it 5 stars anyway because it’s preaching the right message. (Metacritic doesn’t have any reviews of the movie at all.; IMDB.com’s users give it 2 stars, with the same polarization there as we see on RottenTomatoes.com.)
So like most Christian movies, this one blipped across the radar for a very specific audience and was largely ignored by everyone else. Fundagelicals, at whom this movie was aimed, appear to love it simply because they are obligated to love all movies aimed at them. Non-Christians and less-obnoxious Christians appear to have absolutely despised it.
Corbin Bernsen completes his fall to the dork side by being the writer and director of this turkey. He was in God’s Club as the one semi-decent actor in the cast, and I’d really hoped that it was a one-off for him. No, this appears to be his thing now to pander to fundagelicals. He’s got a few more of these sorts of movies coming out in the next year or two, many featuring his pals from God’s Club.
His new venture stars Lacey Chabert as heroine Gwyneth Hayden, who is looking for love. Ms. Chabert has done mostly voice acting, but you might have caught her in 2004’s Mean Girls (as Gretchen Wieners) or Party of Five (as Claudia Salinger). Her love interest in this piece of twice-damned dreck is Paul Wood, played by Jonathan Patrick Moore, who is about as unknown as a guy can get after being in the biz for 10 years.
I am seriously expecting the Pastor Dude with the Cool Hip Hair (David A.R. White, a mainstay of modern fundagelical movies for reasons which can only involve him threatening to blowtorch the moviemakers’ pets if he’s not given a role) to show up somewhere in this movie. If I am disappointed, I’ll down a shot in the movie’s honor. This is exactly his kind of gig.
My expectations, as you can guess, are incredibly low starting out of the gate. I’m not a real fan of rom-coms anyway; their humor tends to be really spotty and cringeworthy, their characters are shallow and pretentious and unlikeable, and their plots hinge completely on people never reacting and behaving in the movie the way they would in real life. But this looks painful even by rom-com standards.
(BTW, all quotes are from the movie unless specifically stated; I’ve learned to stay away from scare quotes with these things.)
Our hooch for today: Since this is the most American Jesus premise for a rom-com I could possibly imagine, we’ll be going with something cheap and apple-pie-reminiscent: Applejack.
The glass for today: a super-cute little snifter I got from my mom. It makes me feel like the most important woman in the world.
First World Problems.
The movie opens with narration, as most of them do nowadays. A quirky, overly-cheerful woman tells us that everyone has a story, some “kookier” than others, and chuckles at how silly some people are (citing the example of religious people who find “Jesus in driftwood”), and tells us earnestly that though she’d been seeking a man to “stick a ring on my finger” (is that what we’re calling it? Okay), what she’d really been looking for was Jesus–in other words, as she puts it, she was actually seeking “Him with a capital H.”
Oh my stars and garters. This is going to be that kind of movie.
Cue the quirky boppy intro music and lots of pictures of couples getting engaged and doing their cute proposals at various times and places. One looks like our own lovely Sarah and her dear husband! Also, I don’t think any of these people are anything but young and white. While that is going on, I just want to say that it’s weird to hear a young woman saying that all she really wants is a husband. I don’t know many young women like that outside of religious groups. I already know that the protagonist of this piece of shit is supposed to be either non-Christian or disengaged (which means that she might still consider herself Christian but isn’t doing any Christian stuff like going to church or praying), so it’s weird to hear that her driving focus is on getting married.
The first scene has the heroine, Gwyneth, chatting up this weird-looking guy on what is obviously a date. He’s a scuzzball who can’t maintain a conversation and is eye-fucking two other women at the bar. They are, unlike Gwyneth, dressed very provocatively and have teased hair and lots of makeup on–and clearly they won’t bore the guy with chats about French cheese like Gwyneth is right then. He leaves to go chat up the two bar hotties, who eagerly accept his overtures while Gwyneth watches in disgust. (Is this how dates look nowadays? I don’t think it is. She comes off as pretentious, not authentic or sophisticated or whatever it was the movie wants us to think. I’m a foodie, but I wouldn’t gush about it to a stranger unless I knew that person shared my interests.)
The next scene has her commiserating about the date’s failure with her girlfriends. She asks why men can’t maintain eye contact for more than ten seconds and her friends assure her that this task is impossible because men are just “dumb” and “stupid.” They chide her for not settling for one of the men they keep fixing her up with; they’re almost all married and their husbands are doing the recommendations. Gwyneth is having some kind of competition with one of her friends who is also not married; both want to avoid “being the last one standing.” She says she literally just wants a man who’ll “look at me for ten seconds and smile.” That is literally her claimed standard for a future husband.
I think we’re coming close to finding out what this gal’s problem is.
Do women really think of marriage as a competition that has to be won? Because I don’t know any who do–now that I’m out of church. Gwyneth laments that she feels like a guy in one of “those movies” who drifts off in a little boat and disappears. Um, what movies are those, please? I’ve never seen anything like that.
On her walk home, she is very sad. She lives above a clock shop of some sort in a neat, jewel-box of a bachelorette pad. She collapses onto her sofa and decides to watch TV and chill while she screws around online and eats cookies. She reacts to the infomercials in a way that is meant to tell us that she is discerning, smart, and media-savvy, clicking past each one–until, that is, she runs across one for Christian Mingle (roll credits!).
The infomercial shows a happy couple who claim they met on the dating site. They kiss. And Gwyneth leans forward, intrigued. She says something that I couldn’t catch after rewinding like five times and turning the volume totally up so I don’t give a flying fuck, but she looks like a little sad child looking through a candy-shop’s window so I’m guessing she’s being wry and skeptical or something. (Can I just say that it annoys me that actors nowadays mumble like they do?)
She sighs, turns the TV off, and then sees that the other girl competing with her for “last one standing” has just gotten engaged!
The Real Problem Here.
A week later, she narrates and tells us that she’s 30 years old and has only had a few short-term relationships and a handful of bad first dates (and she concedes that the problem here might be herself, not the men she’s meeting). “I was convinced that it was now or never. Seriously,” she says, and then reveals that her standards are actually rather higher than she’d indicated:
And you know what? I lied. I didn’t just want a guy who would look at me and smile. I wanted more than that. I wanted a genuinely decent guy, and I knew he was out there. But if I was gonna find him, I’d have to do something different.
What I think is hilarious here is that this movie is clearly meant to show us that Christian men are the “genuinely decent” guys that all women should crave. Having known a lot of Christian men and been married to one, I find that idea nothing short of hilarious. It’s sad that so many single people labor under the delusion that Christians make better spouses in and of themselves simply because they have a Jesus Aura, but if they didn’t then there’d be way fewer fundagelical rom-coms, I suppose.
We whisk through her job at Maritime Advertising as she walks, dull-eyed and disaffected, to her office. I’ve seen Walks of Shame that aren’t as miserable than this gal is. I do like her coat though. It’s super-cute.
Oh, it’s just past Christmastime, by the way. We know this because she trashes her potted poinsettia and declares that with the New Year, she’s going to start over by either buying a dog or joining a monastery or both if they’ll let her bring a dog. Her boss, who dresses like he’s Ted Knight in Caddyshack, speaks only in naval metaphors and lingo–SO QUIRKY. And she has a sassy black co-worker.
The sassy black co-worker, Pamela, asks Gwyneth if she’s just choosing the wrong men to date: “Maybe you’re just knocking on one door hoping another will open.”
LPT: Only Christians talk this way, and frankly the assertion makes no sense whatsoever even from a Christian context. What door is Gwyneth knocking on? The door of all those awful dates? Gwyneth doesn’t take that advice well and calls Pamela “Oprah” — HAHA SO WITTY AND QUIRKY, and Pamela gets pissed at her for doing it.
(I have given myself the hiccups and Bother is so so so so so disturbed by the sound.)
The Caddyshack boss is excited about an upcoming meeting with some infomercial guy who claims he’s found the cure for baldness. The guy is a sleek silver-fox type played by John O’Hurley, who’s been in a lot of soap operas. He eyefucks Gwyneth, who is shocked. She’s disheartened about being a well-paid advertising person who has to make this charlatan’s “magic potions” sound believable to gullible bald men. I don’t think these movie makers are actually even vaguely aware of what an advertising person’s life is like.
She voice-overs a quirky little prayer asking “God” to help her. Right then, behind her, the TV has a sunset picture of a man in silhouette praying. This movie is not what you’d call subtle.
The picture is the beginning of a commercial for Christian Mingle (roll credits!). It suggests that if someone is Christian and single, they can “find God’s match for you.” And media-savvy, smart, skeptical Gwyneth is all OH MY GOD WHAT IS THIS FOUL SORCERY.
This movie is really just a long infomercial, and one of the ways you can tell that fact is that the commercials are always presented in full and easily heard and discerned, and always make the heroine intrigued. She starts making an account on the site to the background music of some Christian song about “walking a hard road.” Because being single is literally the hardest road anybody could walk, right?!?
She is stumped by the site’s request to know how fervent she is and how often she attends church.
And she lies about the name of the church and says she attend it every week.
She pauses, pursing her lips, then selects that she attends church “every week” and makes up a church name (“God’s Church” – haha SO QUIRKY).
We’re going to have to talk about this later, but Jesus Fucking Christ, it’s hard to put into words how genuinely offensive this shit is and how totally unlike reality it seems. Yes, she is a Christian. She’s repeatedly mentioned Christian ideas in the twelve and a half minutes that this movie has run so far (YES WE ARE ONLY THAT FAR IN), and it was right after her First World Problems prayer to “God” to find her a boyfriend that she saw the infomercial, which many Christians would certainly consider some kind of answer to prayer. But it’s hard to fathom a woman who’d lie on a Christian site about how fervent she is. I’ve heard of men doing it–often. But the idea of a woman doing it is weird. I guess the movie is pressing home its premise of fervent Christian men being oh so very desirable to even non-fervent and non-believing women that they would lie to get their claws into those fervent-Christian-man pants.
Gwyneth kinda looks like she’s using a fake or super-outdated profile pic but the movie isn’t totally clear on that point and I don’t give a fuck.
Pardon. Need more booze.
Second Snifter and First Date.
So she immediately goes to a bookstore the next day and buys a shitload of books about Christianity and presumably starts reading them. Because obviously non-fervent Christians would need this shit in order to know what they’re talking about. Look, anybody could look fervent. Christians are largely stone-cold ignorant about major theological points and arguments. She doesn’t need to do this. But the movie wants us to believe that she thinks she is totally out of the league of fervent Christian men. (Yes, I still have the hiccups.)
Then she gets a date set up.
The man in this first date is Paul Wood, and I don’t know if this is okay to say, but holy shit this guy sets off my gaydar. I admit my gaydar is not reliable but gang, he looks gayer than a stack of strawberry flapjacks being eaten by a squirrel parading in tartan underpants down Main Street, and the way he talks does not help here at all.
He apologizes for being late, declares that he’s got awful time management skills (which frankly I’d consider very disrespectful behavior for a first date – lateness would be a major red flag for me and perk my ears up for other signs of a controlling nature), and refers to his father as “papa.” He’s cute, dresses straitlaced, and is perfectly clean-cut. But she’s charmed. He does have a very cute smile.
He declares during a lull in conversation that “this is a weird way to meet somebody. What a strange new world.” But um, this movie was made in 2014. Pretty much all single people seem to have dating profiles nowadays. And Christian Mingle, the dating site, has existed for ten years at this point. Online dating is not a new or weird or strange way to meet other people.
Then he goes on to say that the other stuff never changes, like family, joy, and “our love for the Lord.” She replies noncommittally and he doesn’t notice. He offers her a cookie, and our decidedly cookie-loving heroine says she doesn’t eat cookies. He presses one on her (second red flag!) and she accepts by whispering, “Sold.” They mutually agree that they’re attracted to each other and he says he likes that she’s “uncomplicated, and a believer!” and she says “That’s me!” She gives the most awkward grace ever issued for the coffee and cookie while he grins at her.
The movie wants us to believe she’s pretending to be Christian, but um, she is totally a believer and always has been. She’s just not as observant as she’s pretending. When Pamela berates her for not being Christian, I completely checked out. As Gwyneth herself says, she believes in the Christian god and did Sunday School and all that in her youth and asserts that she is at least “50%” Christian.
Real Christians Looking for Other Real Christians.
Pamela’s got a real problem with this whole dating site thing. She declares that Christian Mingle (roll credits!) is meant for “real Christians looking for other real Christians.”
But, um, Gwyneth is about as real a Christian as it gets. The silver fox infomercial guru wants a private meeting with Gwyneth. The guru accuses her of not being a believer–about his hair regrowth claims. He shows her before-and-after photos of himself using the product. She’s a little nervous about him hitting on her but she is still excited about Paul.
Paul continues to set off my gaydar by answering Gwyneth’s question about working with his hands, “Oh, no, gosh, I wish!” (see pic). She takes him to eat sushi and he seemed enthused at first but is clearly not happy with it. (Third red flag: why isn’t he honest about what he likes and doesn’t like? These two idjits deserve each other.)
So she teaches him about sushi and immediately tries to steer him toward the uni and I almost began to actively hate her, because hands down that is my not-favorite sushi and by far the least accessible kind of easily-available sushi that a beginner could try and she’s forcing it on this poor closeted guy because it’s her favorite. She redeems herself by stopping him because it’s not “gateway sushi” and gets him started on plain old tuna. Okay, hatred abated. Briefly. He spears the tuna with his chopstick because he’s inept at using them (HAHA SO QUIRKY) and spends an incredible amount of time chewing it because he’s so grossed out.
There is no sign whatsoever that he’s laid a hand on her or even wants to do so. They have no chemistry whatsoever.
The Bible Study.
Gwyneth must attend a Bible Study to impress her date. She buys a study Bible and heads to his friend’s house. There’s one single woman there, Kelly, who Paul has some history with, and a couple of married couples. Gwyneth misquotes Galatians at them because we’re not cringing hard enough yet, and she asks them all to call her “Gwynnie,” a nickname that she’s repeatedly said she hates in the movie. One of the married women tells her that Paul is “one of the good ones.”
The person leading the Bible study tells them to turn to Galatians and Gwyneth can’t find it. Paul tells her to “just stick with Gwyneth” as her name. Afterward, she finds herself reading about Christianity on Wikipedia instead of making advertising campaigns around the hair-loss pill.
Paul later takes her for chili dogs, which he’d expressed an interest in. He talks with his mouth full. She asks about Kelly and he says they are old friends and “if Mama had her way,” they’d be married by now. When he later asks her about her testimony she doesn’t have one (why didn’t she just say she was born into it and raised Christian? What’s wrong with that?). He’s got one, of course, involving a parent who saw Jesus in driftwood (YES SERIOUSLY). She asks him if he’s happy and content and he says he thinks he is, especially now that he’s met her. They briefly discuss a kiss at her doorstep but agree not to, and then he gives her one chaste kiss anyway. IT IS MAGICAL. The “walking down a hard road” song plays again.
Going to Church.
She buys new clothes to go to church–very bland beige sweater, blouse, and long skirt with mismatched purse and shoes and ostentatious cross earrings. She apparently didn’t sit with him at the church. Kelly and Paul’s parents invite her to Steak and Cake afterward.
Gwyneth is invited to say grace at the restaurant and it’s so awkward. They’re all surrounded by both steaks on a plate and a huge chocolate cake. I am seriously cringing so fucking hard. Kelly is being all perfect with her head bowed the whole time and the other Christians are trying not to laugh.
MORGAN FAIRCHILD IS PLAYING PAUL’S MOTHER YOU GUYS.
MORGAN FUCKING FAIRCHILD.
She’s glorious. She’s perfect. Perfect. Ten sins removed for her. This is glorious. She sits next to Kelly, by the way. Clearly she’s hoping Paul will end up with Kelly and not Gwyneth. His mom and the other Christians talk about the family’s recent mission trip. They’re eating nothing but steak and cake. I’m not kidding. Not even any fries. This is so weird.
Paul reveals that he’s going to Mexico for a month to rehang the bell at the family’s mission. In fact, his mother reveals, he’s leaving the following night. He just “forgot” to tell her. (How many red flags are we up to? I don’t fucking care at this point. This is the reddest flag. This dumbass!) She later tells her son that she doesn’t think Gwyneth is 100% sincere but he rejects her suggestion. He says he’ll prove it to her.
“Everyone Seems So Happy.”
Gwyneth is buying a dog. She tells Pamela that she’s intrigued by the people at Paul’s church because “everyone seems so happy.” Yes, and I imagine so: for the same reason that Amway salespeople seem happy at Amway pep rallies. Paul is blowing up her phone but she’s letting him stew.
The hair-loss infomercial guy is there to hear the firm’s ideas for his ad campaign. Gwyneth has nothing because she’s been mooning after Paul and learning about Christianity. She pulls a campaign out of her ass, and it bombs. She tries again and starts ranting about “blaming God” and presents the pills as “God’s” answer to prayer. The infomercial guy is mystified and it appears to bomb too.
Paul is still trying to call her. She finally answers. He’s in Mexico and she tries to dump him but he invites her to visit. She’s going to refuse, but her Caddyshack boss screams at her and she decides to go.
Mariachi Music and Haciendas.
To the noise of mariachi music, she arrives in a dry, dusty little village in Mexico. A Mexican kid grabs her luggage and takes it to the mission. I get the feeling that I am going to be hugely offended by this part.
Yeah. I am. I think we need more of this applejack shit. One sec.
Okay. Gang. Look. Your Loyal &Etc. Captain is definitely listing a bit to starboard here. But this is hands-down the most offensive portrayal of Mexico that I’ve seen since that episode of South Park where Butters turns out to be the country’s savior. There are chickens in the street.
Paul and his parents show up to welcome her. Kelly is there and does not approve. Paul’s dad advises Gwyneth that he’s got medications for “the trots” should that become an issue. I kinda like him.
Gwyneth has brought a zillion suitcases. She does not fit in with the other female volunteers. At the campfire later, she does not fit in. Did you know there are 69 calories per serving of Applejack? Really, that’s a bargain despite these goddamn hiccups. And a propos of nothing I don’t want to think about how many typos are in this post.
Paul comes off as really controlling and weird in this scene at the campfire. He holds her hand and it’s supposed to be sweet but I’m totally not feeling it.
The rooster wakes Gwyneth up. The volunteers work to restore the mission church. Gwyneth works with them–after sleeping in. Among other things, Paul’s mother is teaching the local one-room school a Bible lesson–in English of course with a translator. Can I just say I love Gwyneth’s giant hoop earrings? Kelly sits next to Paul’s mother while Gwyneth sits off to one side. It is unbelievably cringeworthy, especially when Paul’s mom tries to trip Gwyneth up by asking her to answer one Mexican girl’s question, in Spanish, about why “God” allowed their church to get destroyed in a storm.
Can I just say I fucking love Morgan Fairchild in this? I am so happy to see her. Every time I see her I love her. Morgan Fairchild is wrong. God is not love. She is love. I have no fucking clue how this movie got her into the cast. She probably owed the director a huge favor. She is deliciously catty and bitchy in every stereotypical single way that every church lady ought to be. She suggests James 1:7-8 to answer the Mexican girl’s question and Gwyneth doesn’t get it. Here it is:
That man should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. He is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I fucking love this woman. I’d hate to be around the character on a social level, but you have got to admit that is next-level dissing right there. I also notice that she’s fully made up and with perfectly-styled hair even in this third-world hellhole of a village. Kelly takes over to answer, and Paul’s mom gives Gwyneth this look that she knows means that the jig is up.
I am so glad I’m drunk for this.
It’s a little weird that Gwyneth has charged off on a mission just barely knowing anything about Paul. I wouldn’t even take a road trip with a guy I barely knew. Okay, I did once, but he was a stage magician and you really can’t miss that sort of opportunity. But usually I wouldn’t.
Paul accuses her of pretending to be a Christian.
He is heartbroken. She protests that she is totally a believer. He shows her the Christianity for Dummies book that she’s brought to Mexico, which he says a kid cleaning the room saw and took to his mom, who gave it to Paul as PROOF YES PROOF that Gwyneth is not what she seems. (I wonder when that happened? Red Flag #Whatever: His Mother is a Psycho Hose Beast from Hell.)
He says he likes her a lot but can’t be with a non-believer. He asks her what she was expecting by registering on Christian Mingle (roll credits!). She says she wasn’t sure but everyone on the site’s advertising looked so gosh-darned happy and she wanted some o’ dat. I hate these people. He dumps her because she’s not Christian enough.
I seriously think this guy is totally in the closet. I’m sorry. I know this might really be not okay. I’m sorry. This guy looks like he’s trying to deny his sexual orientation. He’s dumping her for the dumbest, most contrived reason I can possibly imagine. He seriously reminds me of the closeted guy that Fran dated in Black Books: “How often do you talk to your mother?” she asks, and he’s all “Oh, I dunno, the normal number of times that everybody ever calls their mother? 2 or 3 times a day?”
Amid tears, they part. He doesn’t even hug her goodbye.
Pamela TOLD YOU SO, You Lying Wanker.
Pamela tells her in the office that she should have known better. Christian Mingle is for “real” Christians. I suddenly want to see a movie about Pamela.
Gwyneth throws away her Christianity books but not her Bible. She visits Corbin Bernsen (the director and writer and I will not forgive him for this travesty of a movie, ever) to repair her bike. He’s a widower but won’t ever date again because his late wife was his One True Love. This is supposed to shame Gwyneth somehow, I think.
She is trying to put her life back together. She tells her boss that she “just needs to believe.” She goes home and opens her Bible and there’s this flourish of music that indicates that something amazing is happening. She starts attending a racially-diverse little storefront church. She studies her Bible and connects what she’s reading to the various banners that she saw in Mexico with Paul’s parents’ mission. She starts volunteering with a food kitchen for the poor.
She explains to Pamela, later, that this is her “driftwood Jesus,” her moment of epiphany.
Pamela in turn recites Matthew 7:8 at her, the line about “everyone who asks, receives” and all that. (I guess all us ex-Christians who did not see doors opened and get what we sought are just fucked.) Gwyneth is just shocked that Pamela didn’t say earlier that she was Christian. She tells Pamela that she “wants to do it, and not for Paul.” She wants a relationship with Jesus. They have this Jerry Maguire moment where Pamela keeps making Gwyneth repeat, louder and louder, that she wants that relationship, and okay whatever.
She wants a relationship with someone who does not exist. I guess we’ve all been there. When we were 12.
Gwyneth then tries to call Paul that night and gets his voicemail.
Gwyneth, dressed in a bright orange jacket, pale-blue dress, purple tights, and weirdly-mismatched tan bag and boots, goes to Paul’s church again now that she’s demonstrated that she is a TRUE CHRISTIAN™. I think I already know what’s coming here. We’re at that point where a serious problem needs to crop up.
She sees Paul and taps him on the shoulder. They make small talk in the emptied sanctuary (with a cross hanging over the background) and she apologizes. He replies that “Gosh, of course, [she’s] forgiven.”
Paul’s mom MORGAN FAIRCHILD comes in with Kelly, who immediately goes to Paul and takes his hand in a girlfriend sort of way. It is downright glorious how they just intrude. You just know that the mom knew perfectly well what was happening here. (That’s Kelly behind the mom – interesting how they look so much alike!)
Kelly takes Paul’s hand and smiles at Gwyneth and says, “Hi, Gwynnie!” in exactly the sort of way that we know the heroine hates. (I’m getting more booze here. If I get sick it is this movie’s fault.) Gwyneth retreats after some awkward Jesus-chatter, because she’s gotten the message.
That night, while studying her Bible, Gwyneth does something on her phone that we aren’t shown but which might be her deleting Paul’s phone number. But he texts asking her to coffee the next day.
Post-Romance Coffee Date.
At the coffee date, she tells Paul that he’s deceiving people too. She says, “Isn’t it obvious?”
And I was 100% convinced that she meant that it was 100% obvious that Paul is stone-cold gay. But no, she means that Paul plays it too safe. “When does Paul just get to be Paul?” She says she’s not sure “Kelly is on [his] path.” Her objection seems to be that everyone around Paul has laid out his life for him, and he should “be [his] own man. Be you.” And that means being with her. He get upset with this outburst. He insists he’ll pray for her, but that’s all there is. He leaves and a storm begins.
She tries ultra-hard to avoid “God,” but he keeps sending her portents and signs and she gets progressively more angry about it until she finally achieves enlightenment. Her apartment gets Hollywood Messy, and can we just talk about her weird-ass creepy doll on that top shelf?
I hate all of these people.
Among the letters she’s gotten in that bundle is a letter from one of the Mexican kids from the mission, written in a patois that is downright offensive.
The next Christmas, we see Gwyneth back at the mission teaching school. The Mexican girl who wrote the letter reads the Bible in English. Gwyneth is wearing traditional Mexican clothes, and she still can’t speak fluent Spanish. A boy runs in to tell her to hurry to see something.
NO way is she running on those super-high sandal heels! But she hurries to the church.
There’s a guy working on decorating the Christmas tree. He isn’t the one who asked for her.
He shows up and says Kelly isn’t there, and will never be. The implication is that they broke up. (But I wonder how official that breakup is considering how unofficial his breakup with Gwyneth was. I’m betting Kelly would have a very different version of events than the heroine would.)
He tells her that the only harder thing there is than playing it safe is admitting that he was wrong, and he was totally, totally wrong to let her leave his life. He came to Mexico to tell her that. He kisses her and she’s super-happy and the church people are watching and whatever. He does not say why he and Kelly broke up. She talks about how much she likes his dad and how they’re going to have to work together to bring his mom around.
The credits run and at the last bit the two old Mexican guys wave goodbye as she says “adios, amigos!” in voice-over.
- This guy is so so so so so gay. I cringe writing that but what the hell else am I supposed to think here? Either he was intended to be closeted or the film’s creators really thought that a proper TRUE CHRISTIAN™ man looks exactly like a closeted gay man.
- JESUS AURA
- Redemptive faith
- Christian men are so awesome
- WTF plot twists
Basic Christianity: 3/10
Hero’s heterosexuality: 1/10
Morgan Fucking Fairchild: 10/10
Drunkenness as compared to other reviews: 100/10
This Applejack is the best fucking shit ever: 10/10
Dropped subplot with the hair loss guru: 2/10
Baffling plot twists: way too many
The surprising upshot: on par with other rom-coms
Corbin Bernsen: I hate him now
Forced Situations of Quirkiness: 7
Bumble: is licking a banana peel next to me and I’m not sure why
David A.R. White: Did not show up and so as promised I had one last shot and I’m not really coherent right now
Unnecessary naval/maritime lingo: I guess I’m not anyone to judge
TOTAL: 5/10 (largely thanks to Morgan Fairchild)
I’ll see y’all in the comments in a bit. I need a shower. This movie wasn’t as horrible as one might expect, but it definitely wasn’t great. Still, it was an interesting look at how Christians see the dating game in this new age of demographic shifts–and so I’m glad I saw it!