Adapted from a short to film, “Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” shows the strain of the fattening process – as locals feel a little light in terms of collecting plate. The performances centrals, however, make this dark satire awkwardly watchable, with Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall as a disgraced pastor and his wife desperately plotting a comeback.
“Pastor Childs, are the allegations true?” Brown’s pastor, Lee-Curtis Childs, is questioned early on, while leaving details of the scandal deliberately vague for much of the film.
The details are actually relatively insignificant, as the relentlessly optimistic pastor and his wife Trinitie (Hall) are working to rebuild their Atlanta megachurch, which once had thousands of parishioners, planning a triumphant reopening on Easter Sunday.
In what feels like an act of hubris, the Childs also invited a documentary crew to follow, on the fly, through the process, although there were enough awkward moments that they often found themselves together. to speak directly. to the invisible filmmakers, asking them to leave out certain elements.
This device represents the kind of thing that student filmmakers use, and writer-director Adamma Ebo – who produced the film with her twin sister Adanne, stars Daniel Kaluuya and Jordan Peele – could have done without it in this format. , though it serves to force Brown and Hall to keep smiles plastered on their faces, while tension simmers just under the manicured surface as they watch their empire recede.
Eventually, amid references to “settlement” being paid to those who are wrong, they resort to roadside preaching, an indication of the downfall of the mighty. They also watch as their followers flock to another church run by a younger couple (Nicole Beharie, Conphidance), who aren’t particularly good at hiding their interest in capitalizing on their competition’s misfortune — what the former calls a “dump.” of circumstance “. ”
After debuting at the Sundance Film Festival, “Honk for Jesus” obviously has commentary on the transactional nature of some religious outfits incorporated into the concept, pointing to Pastor Childs’ flashy outfits and expensive shoes as evidence of those profiting. of their herds. . But this larger aspect of the film feels underdeveloped, focusing specifically on the fate of the central couple, and in particular how far Trinitie will go, to quote the song, by standing by her man.
In that sense, the film provides a solid showcase for Brown and Hall while establishing Ebo as a talent worth watching, if not, in this setting, one that completely delivers.
“I’m not a perfect man,” Pastor Childs concedes at one point.
Although “Honk for Jesus” isn’t a perfect movie, praise it for being at least interesting.
“Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul” premieres September 2 in US theaters and on Peacock. It is rated R.