Thursday, June 18, 2015

Confession Movie Churches: Easy A (2010) and Big Eyes (2014)

I confess to enjoying both "Easy A" and "Big Eyes." I thought I should confess since that's what both films are about; an elaborate deception and the need to confess. In both films, there's an attempt to confess in church and in both films that attempt is not successful. Talking about Movie Churches is what we do here, but I'll need to tell about both movies' plots to get to the churches and the confessions.

Emma Stone stars in "Easy A" as a high school girl named Olive. She lies about losing her virginity in order to look cool in her friend's eyes. Her lie gets around and builds, plot complication after plot complication, until everyone at the school believes that the virgin Olive is a prostitute spreading venereal diseases.

There is a Christian club at Olive's school (one could stretch things and call it a church), but Marianne (Amanda Bynes) the leader of the club, shows no compassion to Olive. She calls her a "slut" and tries to get her kicked out of school. Marianne does say (at a club meeting) that Jesus calls us to "love whores and homosexuals but it's so hard" -- so hard she doesn't even seem to try.

In homage to The Scarlet Letter, Olive, like Hester Prynne, feels ostracized from the community and racked by guilt. Olive goes to a Catholic church and enters a confessional. She pours out her heart, admitting she doesn't have to confess to sexual sin but rather dishonesty and lies. She also admits she's not a Catholic but she's wilingl to say ten Hail Marys or pay a fine or whatever it takes. When there is no response, she realizes no priest is there, so she leaves the church in embarrassment.

She goes to another church and asks to see the pastor. Please allow me at this time a tangentially rant about church fashion in films. The church appears to be of an independent, fundamentalist bent. And yet the pastor is wearing a clerical collar. In my experience, clerical collars are worn by priests (Catholic or Anglican/Episcopalian) and a few mainline pastors. And fundamentalists don't want to be confused with such "heretics." Tangential rant over; back to the movie: Olive asks the pastor if he thinks adultery is a sin, and he assures her he does. She asks if he believes in Hell and he assures her he does. He tells her Hell is underground near Asia (apparently he got his theological training from Loony Toons). Olive then realizes from a photo on the desk that the pastor is her tormenter Marianne's father. She flees again.

Failing to find a way to confess in church, she confesses her sin (or her sin of lack of sin) on the Internet.

"Big Eyes" is based on the true story of painter Margaret Keane (Amy Adams), who was enmeshed in a different elaborate deception. She fell in love with a man who claimed to be a painter. They married, and her husband Walter (Christoph Waltz) convinced her to allow him to pass off her paintings as his own. Her "big eye waif" paintings become an international sensation and her husband takes all the credit.

Walter persuades Margaret to lie to everyone about the paintings, even to her own daughter. The guilt from the lies (and the envy of Walter's acclaim that she believes is rightfully hers) eats away at Margaret, so she goes to a confessional in a Catholic church. She tells the priest she was raised Methodist but needs to talk to someone. She tells the priest her husband was having her lie about "something" to her daughter. The priest tells her that there is probably a good reason her husband had her lie, and that as a Christian she should recognize the importance of submitting to her husband. The sexism of the priest is annoying, but Margaret was so vague in her confession that the priest had no way of knowing how serious the matter might be.

Eventually Margaret finds another venue for her confession -- the courtroom. She divorces Walter and sues him for the rights to her paintings.

In James 5:16, we are told to confess our sins to one another in order to be healed. But if confession is taking place in church, people will seek healing in other places. And I think experience has shown that the internet and the courtroom are not the most healing of places.

Easy A: 

Big Eyes: 

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