Movie of the Week: ‘Leap of Faith’

Steve Martin celebrates his 77th birthday on Aug. 14, and Happy Birthday, Mr. Legend!

To help celebrate his day, let’s look back at his turn as a traveling preacher with a love for his followers’… in “Leap of Faith”.  It’s our Movie of the Week!

“Leap of Faith” (1992) – “Manipulators are sneaky.  I’m obvious,” Jonas Nightengale (Martin) says to his friend Jane Larson (Debra Winger).  Jane is Jonas’ confidant, but she’s also the Chief Operating Officer of his massive traveling operation.  He’s a faith healer with a sizable staff, a choir of dozens, a bus, and a couple of tractor trailers.  This caravan circles the country to seek calculated spots to set up their massive circus tent as Jonas spouts the word of God.  However, Jonas’ prime religion is money.  He’s a fraud, a con man, and although IMDb labels “Leap of Faith” as a Comedy/Drama/Romance, it’s primarily a drama that packs a wallop in the third act. 

Here’s another surprise:  Martin doesn’t play Jonas for laughs, and that’s all by design.  In front of adoring crowds of Christians, Jonas is more animated than a kid on Christmas morning, a Powerball winner, and a pro wrestler winning the title all wrapped up in one.  However, behind the curtain, he’s a pragmatic, cynical swindler.  However, when this immoral preacher and his troupe stop in Rustwater, Kansas (pop. 22,000), a town down on its luck, will Jonas find a heart?  Director Richard Pearce’s film – released a few years after televangelists Tammy and Jim Bakker fell on hard times – also stars Liam Neeson, Meat Loaf, and a 25-year-old Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Holy moly!

⭐⭐⭐ out of ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Image credits: Paramount Pictures

Directed by: Richard Pearce

Written by: Janus Cercone

Starring: Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Liam Neeson, Meat Loaf, and Philip Seymour Hoffman

Rated: PG-13

Runtime: 103 minutes

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