Everybody can learn new things. Why, just this morning I figured out how to get italics into my blog post titles. So I knew going into this movie that it’s about Kirk Cameron
‘s character saving his marriage, so who knows, maybe I’ll learn some amazing new tips and tricks to use in my own relationships!
Or… maybe not. Kirk Cameron is famous for being a git. He very famously annoyed the hell out of his co-workers on his TV show Growing Pains, and over the years has built a reputation of being a horrible person in the name of Jesus.
I’m almost glad I was Pentecostal by the time Growing Pains got popular because look, gang, I’ve always thought the guy looked like a sanctimonious schmuck. I have never understood anyone’s attraction to the hyuck-hyuck grin he thinks makes him look playful and approachable. When it turned out that he was a little high-and-mighty asshat trying to run the TV show like his own fiefdom, accusing the show’s producers of being pornographers and demanding the show be run more to his own true-blue Christian liking, I wasn’t super-surprised. He’d been trying to get non-Christians to abide by his idea of how people should behave for years; Rational Responders has been keeping an eye on him for a while now–not a huge surprise considering Kirk Cameron and his buddy Ray “Banana-man” Comfort lied through their teeth during a debate with them some years back.
And I’ve written extensively about the weird expectations Christians often bring with them into marriage. Having endured a properly Christian marriage and having seen lots of other Christians fall into that same crevasse when they try to shoehorn unworkable, impractical ideas into a real-world relationship, I can safely say that there is absolutely no truth to anything evangelicals say about romantic love or relationships. Nothing. Not a bit. Not even kidding.
So what I’m saying here is that I don’t have high expectations.
Here We Go.
The Show: On my Mac, since I still don’t have a working television.
The Hooch: I thought long and hard about exactly what would do justice to an aging, way-past-relevant ex-child-star who peaked in 1987 and has been on a downhill slide ever since. After great deliberation I decided to go with some Bartles & Jaymes wine coolers. Kirk Cameron is not worth my signature SoCo mixed drink. I’m on #2 now. They are strawberry flavored. Straight out of the bottle because I am CLASS-EH. I think I got really fucked up on these when I was a teenager once. I’m having Doritos too. It just seemed so right.
Opening: A mother tells her little girl that Daddy isn’t home yet but will be soon. I gather he’s a firefighter. The little girl–who has a plaque above her bed reading “Daddy’s little GIRL” (the caps are theirs)–informs her mother that she wants to marry her father. The mother giggles and says she can’t because Daddy is her husband. The girl asks her mother if, when the mother is done with him, she can have him. The mother says no, she’ll never be done with him so that’s not possible and her daughter will need to marry someone else. This girl is seriously in love with her father. I find this whole scene incredibly creepy given what we know of purity balls. I need a shower and the movie’s like 90 seconds in.
Beginning: Kirk Cameron is a firefighter captain. At the station, he chews out some other firefighter under him for abandoning his partner during the fire they apparently just got done fighting. “You never leave your partner, especially in a fire!” he thunders, or at least tries to thunder. I don’t think he really understands human emotions. He kind of has this feeling of what they look like but he’s not sure exactly how to make his face things work to express them. Dude’s got Botox of the soul. The fireman he reams apologizes, but Kirk tells him to wait a bit and apologize to his partner after there’s been some cooling-off–and “make it sincere.” Because one can just will sincerity into being.
The foreshadowing on this is painful. I’ve mentioned this before, right? Christian parables really suck. I can already tell that the whole fire thing is a metaphor for the trials facing married couples and he’ll figure out at some point that he left his partner–his wife–behind somehow. She’ll almost certainly be the little girl who married her “daddy”–him. Ugh, Kirk Cameron as someone’s daddy fetish…
We cut to a hospital. Kat is a woman in a suit who tells us, via painfully stilted dialogue, that her mother had a stroke a year ago. She wants to buy her mother a special bed and wheelchair, but “their insurance doesn’t cover it.” Too bad Republicans fight against decent insurance coverage tooth and nail, huh? Maybe Kirk Cameron needs to talk to them about it. A nurse reminds Kat of her scented-candle party the next day and Kat says she will deffo be there because she wants to buy candles for her mother, because if one is in terrible pain then a candle does the job (I’m clearly doing something very wrong here). I’m wondering if they mean Scentsy or something like that. Scentsy was huge with the MLM Koolaid-drinkers in my town back when I was working at the call center. Seemed like every puritanical lady there sold Scentsy. So I call shens on the idea that Kat actually wants to attend this party anyway.
A word about dialogue. It sucks.
Kat literally bumps into Dr. Keller–“Call me Gavin. Please.” He calls her a “sweet girl.” He talks in a Southern accent. The movie is set in Albany, Georgia, incidentally, and someone took the location to heart in making this movie. I thought it was Albany, New York and I was totally confused.
The black nurses share a sassy-black-lady moment as they declare that he might just have “a THANG for Kat.” Then they say together, “Mmm-HMMM!”
A word about the characterization of the sassy black nurses. It sucks.
Kat gets to her parents’ house and hugs her father hello. She still calls him “Daddy.”
Look, there’s a long-running thing down South about adult women calling their fathers “Daddy,” but look, it’s a little weird, okay? I’m not the only one saying this here.
Kat wants sweet tea to drink–another usually-Southern thing. She tells her mother–who can no longer talk and isn’t really present anymore mentally–that she misses her mom and their talks. It seems distinctly rude to me for someone to look at their mother–even one mentally kind of out-there–and talk to her like that.
Kat goes home. Kirk arrives in firefighter kit and heads straight for the fridge. He asks her what she ate and starts an argument with her over the lack of breakfast food in the house. Er, I guess it’s morning? The movie makes it look like she drove in and began working in the kitchen, but now it seems like she went to bed, got up, and is now ready to go to work again.
Incidentally, she raises a very good point in this argument: her man-child husband gets angry with her for not being psychic and knowing when he’ll be around for breakfast, when he’s home for 48 hours at a time after his long shifts and could easily go get his own damn breakfast foods–or hit McDonald’s on the way home. He holds her responsible for tending to him, but she’s got a busy, stressful job too and clearly works full-time. He goes on to point an angry finger at her and inform her that she “chose” to work and nobody forced her to go full-time; she reminds him that they need her income. I’m not surprised to see this argument happening; I had very similar ones when I was married to a Christian. I think we will be ready for #3 of those wine coolers soon and the movie is about 10 minutes in. I think Mr. Captain only got 4 of these. Who the hell packages wine coolers in 4s? Has this always been a thing? Beer comes in six-packs.
Gym scene. OMG Kirk Cameron is slamming weights. I mean he’s on some kind of weightlifting machine and he’s letting them slam down with each lift. It’s loud and clacky and isn’t that kind of rude? I thought gym guys fucking hated that. He angrily asks a friend or coworker or something (who is black) why he gets respect everywhere except in his own house.
The coworker/friend suggests counseling and Kirk Cameron pretends that’s totally not an option because counselors are ickie boo hiss. Again, not that uncommon of an attitude in fundagelical Christianity. His acting is simply horrible, but nothing he’s saying falls outside my own experience. The coworker passes on a saying he learned in counseling comparing women to roses instead of telling him to fucking just talk to her like a grown up.
Quick Aside: Aphorisms, Metaphors, and Parables Are Not a Substitute For Grown-Up Conversation About Problems.
Kirk goes home and gets pissy at Kat for not being psychic and knowing he was coming home to eat. He blows out the candle she lit on the counter because he doesn’t like how it smells. (I own the same glass candle dish!!!) He starts another argument with her, reminding her again that her decision to work was apparently her choice, not his, and he clearly doesn’t appreciate or like the idea of her working.
I thought I was going to think their arguing was childish and annoying, and it is, but it’s also painful because I had the same arguments as a Christian with Biff. I’m noticing that these two people have absolutely nothing in common and don’t seem in the least affectionate toward each other. Kat is quite right: her husband is like a child she has to deal with, someone whose temper, selfishness, and hair-trigger emotions are factors she must balance, mitigate, and take into account every time she walks through her front door. There is literally nothing he adds to her life except stress and a little money–though she makes clear that the money he makes mostly goes to the house he himself wanted to buy anyway. If she ever loved him, it was a long time ago.
He screams his head off in her face, slamming cabinets, demanding she look at him, pushing her against a wall, and generally terrifying her. Finally she tells him in a tortured little voice that she wants out of the marriage. He screams that that’s fine and storms out while she dissolves into tears, takes off her wedding ring, and slumps into bed, leaving him to sleep in the guest room. Frankly, if a man ever showed that kind of anger toward me, or pushed me up against a wall, or screamed like that at me, you’d be reading about my reaction the next morning on the news. (But that’s what abusive behavior does to victims–makes them get used to this stuff and put up with things they never would put up with anyway. I’m not victim-blaming her here. Just saying this is completely unacceptable behavior on his part.)
The next morning Kirk is at work reading and overhears his coworker/friend from the gym cooing and being lovey-dovey with his wife. The black nurses, meanwhile, tell Kat she should DTMFA. A cut-screen scene happens of Kirk complaining about Kat to the black coworker, and Kat telling the nurses how terrible Kirk is. Kirk tells his coworker that he has no real reason to want to patch things up. For what it’s worth, I believe him. He doesn’t need a wife. Like a lot of guys in his faith system, he needs to take kindergarten over again.
Kirk is talking to his dad–at work, I guess–telling his dad he’s breaking up with Kat. An emergency comes in and Kirk dashes off to save a pair of girls trapped in a car on some train tracks. He tells the driver–a very frightened young woman–that he won’t leave her. A train is coming. He and his fellow firefighters push the car with the help of a bunch of onlookers, barely getting the car off the tracks in time. The black coworker, pushing from the back of the car, has his helmet knocked off by the train and is almost hit. (Mr. Captain points out that as a prominent black character, this guy had a reasonable fear of getting killed in this scene.)
I will give the movie this: it’s a fucking incredible rescue, a fucking incredible scene. It has absolutely nothing to do with the movie and doesn’t advance the plot in any way whatsoever, but it does demonstrate Kirk Cameron’s obvious hero-worship of firefighters at least. This scene belongs in a way better movie. It’s the one well-paced, well-shot, well-timed scene I’ve seen so far and probably will be the only decent scene in this whole piece of shit.
Afterward the new firefighter (the one who got yelled at in the beginning) asks the black coworker if he was scared about being so close to the train; the coworker says that he wasn’t because “I know where I’m going.” Another firefighter–who is also black–asks Caleb if he knows where he’s going and asks if he believes in “heaven and Hell.” The below screenshot is, I kid you not, Kirk’s reaction:
He says he doesn’t know. The second coworker then goes on to say he’s just going to get buried and stay there–I guess he’s an atheist? Kirk tells him that he and the first guy can’t possibly both be right, but they both know that the first guy is “the real deal” and walks off. I’m trying to remember if I’ve ever talked like that about a Christian or if I’ve heard anyone talk like that about one. I don’t think so.
Kirk’s parents come to talk to him. They’re sympathetic to Kat. He wants them to take his side, but neither of them seem inclined in that direction. The dad says he’ll take a walk with Kirk, whose name I am realizing now is Caleb in the movie. That’s very Old Testament. I’m going to keep calling him Kirk because as you’ll see in a few minutes, he certainly doesn’t distinguish between pretendy funtime acting and real life. Fuck him.
The father goes walking with Kirk and tells him that he and Kirk’s mother are doing a lot better in their relationship now–and the dad credits “God” with fixing their marriage. Kirk insists that if there is some kind of a deity out there, “he’s not interested in me and my problems,” but Dad says–in a Southern drawl–“Ah disuhgree-uh.”
While the doctor asshat flirts up Kat over lunch, there’s a weird-ass scene of one of Kirk’s firefighters talking to, flirting up, and dancing with his mirror reflection in the firehouse bathroom. Are firefighters all this, um, well, pudgy, by the way? I’m from Houston, where beefcake firefighter calendars have been a hot seller for 25 years (I remember when these first started getting made–wow my church was mad.) The skeevy guy’s coworker (the second black guy who asked Kirk where he was going) spies on him and busts out laughing at his posturing in front of the mirror. This scene also has nothing to do with the movie in which it unfortunately finds itself, but it’s actually funny.
While the bathroom scene is apparently going on, the first black coworker (the one who almost got hit by the train) glues together a set of salt and pepper shakers to show Kirk that married people are like that and should stay together even if they aren’t much alike. Kirk snaps, “But marriages aren’t fireproof! Sometimes you get burned!” And I suddenly am betting that real firefighters ache for the day they can meet this guy face-to-face so they can whale on him like they’re a Japanese movie monster and he’s Tokyo. When Kirk starts trying to tear the shakers apart, the coworker (whose name I now hear is “Michael”) warns him that if he does, he’ll destroy one or both of them–oooh, deep. Kirk tells him to quit lecturing him, GYAHH, pulls rank on him like a dickbag, and walks out.
Again: Aphorisms, Metaphors, and Parables Are Not a Substitute For Grown-Up Conversation About Problems.
Kirk gets the thing in the mail from his dad. It’s a handwritten book in a fancy leather journal like you get at Barnes & Noble, and it’s called “The Love Dare.” Remember, the dad says this is what saved his marriage. Did he write all this down beforehand? Or did he go and write it down after the marriage was secured? Either way, Dad warns Kirk that he shouldn’t take this 40-day challenge “lightly” and hints that his system has saved many other marriages. Again…. Dad wrote this journal by hand. I’ve got some big questions here.
Day 1 is “don’t say anything nasty to your spouse.” Seriously. Kirk acts like it will be this huge imposition.
But he manages somehow not to snap at his wife when she expresses a lack of interest in carting his dirty shirt to the the cleaner’s. Somehow. His frustration is tangible–really, the only times Kirk’s acting seems plausible is when he’s screaming at Kat or being a jackass to someone–but he manages not to scream at her for mentioning that he’s been home for two solid days so maybe he could have taken the dry cleaning in himself during that time. She’s right, incidentally; he could have done that in between fucking around with his dad and jogging and all the other stuff he does while she’s at work.
Day 2 in the journal tells him to do something unexpectedly kind. So he makes coffee for Kat. She leaves without drinking it because she doesn’t have time to sit and drink it. He looks just flabbergasted that his generous deed went unrewarded. He ends up throwing a fit and pouring it and the pot of coffee out in the sink.
Day 2 was, notably, not “talk to her like a fucking adult.”
Day 3 tells him to buy his wife something to tell her he was thinking of her, so he orders flowers. But he gets upset that flowers cost $45, so he sends her a $25 bouquet and some cheap chocolate. It’s not a bad arrangement–some inexpensive wildflowers and carnations in a Mason mug jar sort of affair with a tiny box of chocolates. When Kat sees it on the counter, she is visibly unimpressed (later she calls the bouquet “these pitiful little flowers”)–clearly he did not spend enough on her. I imagine he feels at this point like one of those peacocks whose plumes just aren’t big and colorful enough.
I should skip the hot sauce challenge scene. It has nothing to do with the movie but shows how tough Kirk Cameron is. I won’t, though, because I want to point something out. Kirk drinks an entire bottle of “Wrath of God” hot sauce in 23 seconds. The mirror-talking skeeveball tries to duplicate the stunt. Kirk replaced his hot sauce with tomato juice, showing that he’s a sneaky bastard, but he lets the skeeveball drink a third of the real thing without saying a word about endangering his teammate. So much for never letting one’s partners down. Is this what Christians think is hilarious? It’s disturbing in the extreme to me.
Kat is confused by Kirk’s behavior, but the sassy black nurses tell her he’s “buttering her up” for a divorce. When she comes home, he is looking at porn on the family’s computer in the living room and she sees him closing out all his windows and wiping his history. She tells him she knows he was looking at porn. He screams at her again (hey, not screaming at her was day 1 and we’re on like 4 now so he’s good to go) and says she never believes he could do anything worthy of respect on his own. She agrees and stomps away. I can’t blame her. He’s a mewling ass-crack of a man-child. He complains to his dad, who accuses him of half-assing the Love Dare. (Mr. Captain said: “That boy’s got a lotta quit in him.”) Meanwhile, Kat pours her heart out to her mother, who–again–can’t talk back or even show awareness of her daughter.
Kat appears to think that the porn addiction is the problem. She feels “humiliated,” like she’s not “good enough for him” because he looks at porn. I wish I could tell her that porn is really not the problem here. Days pass–the two of them do their thing; he does the Love Dare while Kat gets closer to Gavin the Southern Doctor, who leaves her roses on her desk and chats her up in hallways.
This is starting to sound like a commercial for Kirk Cameron’s shitty marriage-advice manual.
Now he’s up to advice about praying for his wife and “studying” her like he did before they got married. “Studying her” seems to entail making a candlelight dinner for Kat and asking her interview questions.
None of this sounds like “talk to her honestly like a grown-up and listen to what she has to say.”
So he goes all-out making this nice dinner for her. She comes home and looks really confused by all this, and leaves. He looks angry and frustrated. The problem is, Kat is convinced he’s being nice to her because he wants a better divorce settlement. He’s been so nasty to her for so long that she simply doesn’t love him anymore. Now that he’s decided to be a good boy for a little while, she is expected to fall into line at some point–if not immediately then at least fairly quickly. She correctly perceives that everything’s happening on his terms–even stuff he thinks he’s doing for her, he’s really doing for himself.
She tells him flat-out that she doesn’t love him anymore. He gets sadface and extinguishes the candles. Poor Kirk. Poor Kirk. He calls his dad, who says to himself before answering the phone, “Oh son, this is when it gets hard,” like he knows exactly what Kirk is going through. Dad comes over and they have a big come-to-Jesus meeting and Kirk whines a lot about how much he cares about “this relationship” and how he’s gotten no cookies at all for doing the standard-issue stuff that all people in relationships ought to do anyway. Dad makes the point that Kirk is doing the same thing to Jesus that Kat is doing to him, and unless he’s a Christian he has no idea what love is and is incapable of maintaining a happy and passionate marriage.
This is so excruciating. Amid swelling music, Dad preaches at Kirk and entreats him to convert. Hooray! It works just like apologists say it should! And Dad leads him through the Sinner’s Prayer thingie and they hug.
Kirk goes to work the next day and tells Michael, the first black coworker, that he’s “all in,” meaning he’s Christian. They hug. They talk about marriage, and Michael reveals that before he became Christian he had no idea how to maintain a proper and happy marriage, but now that he’s Christian he can do it. Oh my gosh this is ludicrous. Look, I’ve been married to a Christian and it was a total disaster. I wrote the series on it!
Speaking of which, a fire breaks out in a house and Kirk and his gang go fight it. At first they’re kind of casual because they think everyone’s out of the house, but then it turns out a little girl is very likely inside so shit gets real. Again, this is a really good scene. I’m actually impressed. Kirk heads in to save her, and finds her but gets trapped inside the house. He ends up dragging the little girl out from under the house just as it’s collapsing. But like all the good scenes in this movie, this scene has zero to do with the movie at all. It doesn’t advance the plot and doesn’t help Kirk’s marriage. It just demonstrates how brave and strong and bold he is. Oh, and apparently Gavin treats him afterward or something.
Later, he’s drooling over this boat he wants to buy, and a porn pop-up comes onscreen. He almost clicks the “Wanna See More?” button but in the end, doesn’t. He gets up and walks around his living room because that is totally what men do when they’re struggling with whether or not to click a porn pop-up. He takes the computer outside and takes a bat to it. (Mr. Captain has just decided to institute a no-fapping policy in our household unless it’s over porn that would mortally offend Kirk Cameron.) Beating his computer to death is ridiculous and counterproductive, which is to say it makes total sense to someone like Kirk Cameron (the person, not the character).
This gesture is one of those grand, ostentatious, meaningless gestures that doesn’t actually amount to anything and is NOT “talking to her like a goddamned grown-up.”
Kat comes in, sees the computer in the trash and wrecked, and in its place finds a bouquet of properly-expensive roses with a loving note. She leaves him her own letter, which he finds in the morning: legal paperwork for the divorce.
Look, I don’t know why he’s so shocked and devastated.
She’s given him ZERO indications that she’s interested in reconciliation. The real miracle is that she hasn’t filed before now. He insists that they loved each other long ago, but I’ve seen not one iota of love between the two of them. He’s more concerned about maintaining the marriage than he is about his wife as a person. Everything he’s doing is geared toward keeping her in the marriage. These two have no business being married. Hell, they have no business trying to be friends. Or housemates. Or work peers. Or acquaintances. He’s semi-violent toward her and genuinely nasty toward her all the time when he isn’t trying to get something out of her. He really doesn’t deserve her.
Kat learns that “a gentleman” bought the bed and wheelchair her mother needs. She thinks it’s Gavin and asks if he has lunch plans. He says all skeevy-like, “I do now.”
Kirk finds a “thinking of you” card from Gavin to Kat in their marital bedroom. He finds out just who Gavin is and yes there’s a confrontation. But it’s not a fight. It’s just some posturing. Gavin turns out to be married as well–and blowing off his own wife–shocking! And after Kirk Cameron confronts him, he starts blowing off Kat too. Oooh, Kirk put the fear of the Lord into him!
Kirk and Kat mope separately to Jesus music. This is like the worst song ever, something about “while I’m waiting on you Lord” or something and it’s awful. Kirk cleans the house top to bottom and tries to hold his shit together doing firefighter stuff and reading the Love Dare book. He starts being happy again. It’s a cute montage, despite the song, and one starts getting he feeling that he’s doing the stuff he does because that’s just what he wants to do.
Then Kat stays home sick during one of his days off, and he’s super nice to her and gets her Chik-Fil-A. (OMG. SERIOUSLY. CHIK-FIL-A. WTF FUNDAGELICALS. STOP THAT.) At least there are really Chik-Fil-As in Albany, Georgia. But he couldn’t have found something nicer to give a sick person? Like soup and some bread from Panera? When I’m sick, the last thing I want is fried crap.
Turns out she knows about the Love Dare now and has been reading the book. She asks what day he’s up to now and he says “43,” because why should he stop at 40? Oh my god what else does one want. Yes, they get back together. She forgives him for being a git and tells him she loves him–because “something changed you” and she wants that to change her too! OMG! “It can,” he tells her, and grabs her in his arms for a long kiss. And he takes her out to the cross that his dad converted him at in the park, and she converts too.
This ending plays like a dream sequence. Like the real movie ended with the divorce decree scene, and everything after it is just a dream of his, this perfect-case scenario, this wish-fulfillment fantasy of his.
Anyway, Kirk and his dad go walking and Kirk praises up the Love Dare and thanks his dad for not giving up on him or his own wife. Then his dad reveals the SHOCKING TWIST: Kirk’s mom was the one who converted and did the Love Dare on his dad! OMG! Kirk leaves his dad in the forest and runs back home to beg his mom’s forgiveness–for what? For thinking she was a little annoying sometimes? There’s a grand outdoor rededication ceremony and the salt and pepper shakers top the cake. Hooray! THE END!
And nothing could possibly go wrong here in the future because:
These people still have no idea how to talk to each other like grown-ups.
Kirk Cameron is very proud of the fact that he never actually kisses any woman who isn’t his wife, not even while acting, not even in pretend, not even if it’s his character’s job. So incidentally, that kiss up there I just mentioned? That was done in silhouette with his own real live wife, not the actress portraying his wife, because he’s so fussypants he can’t kiss any other women because Jesus-Reasons.
I really can’t stand any of these people. But now I’ve gotten a taste for firefighter movies. So I guess that’s something. I can see why Kirk Cameron likes them so much.
We’ll be talking about some specific stuff about this movie later, but this is the review–and now I need that shower.
ETA: I forgot to rate it. That might not matter to y’all but it does to me.
Kirk Cameron: 0/10
Firefighting/rescue scenes: 10/10
Arguments: Eerily familiar
Jesus Fixes Everything: 0/10
Non-Christians Can’t Do Anything: 0/10
Salesmanship Level: Glorified Infomercial for Shitty Marriage Advice Manual
Total: 1 zerplex out of Q.