Friday, May 29, 2020

Comedy Month -- The Pastor and the Pro

The Pastor and the Pro (2018)

This film boldly resurrects one of the worst trends in motion picture history, the sex farces of the late 1950s and early 1960s (from the Doris Day/Rock Hudson flicks to the Bob Hope/Elke Summers atrocities). The trend started with Pillow Talk and continued on with things like Where the Boys Are and The Honeymoon Machine through things like Sex and the Single Girl and I’ll Take Sweden.

What made these films awful are some of the same things that made them popular at the time. They were blatantly about sex -- but they couldn’t REALLY be about sex. The films were usually about people who ALMOST have sex. These films (made in the USA; Europe was up to other things) could not use certain words or show certain body parts  -- especially certain body parts interacting with other body parts.

These films were oh so coy, implying and insinuating sexuality but never explicitly portraying it. But men and women were somehow able to comfortably watch these films together in a movie theater and even laugh together. This all changed when the Hays Code, which censored films, began to fall apart in the Sixties. The naughty words started to be said. Body parts, previously hidden at theaters where families attended together, began to be seen on screen and those body parts began to interact.

So the genre of sex farces with no sex became sex comedies like Animal House and Porky’s that actually include sex. Sex farces migrated to television on shows like Three’s Company until television started to swear and show naughty bits on cable and streaming.

In 2014, writer/director Matthew Wilson brought back the sex farce with The Virgins. It is about sexuality: a bride and groom who face one obstacle after another in consummating their marriage after waiting in purity. Though the film is about sex, there are some of the same limits on language and content that Hollywood filmmakers dealt with under the Hayes Code, because the film was made by Christians for a Christian audience.

Matthew Wilson returns to the long moribund genre with 2018’s The Pastor and the Pro. Amazon summarized the film like this: “A young, single pastor needs a quick date for a big, church dinner so he hires an escort.” Like the sex farces of old, that tag line sounds like an unlikely, nay, impossible situation. It is actually impressive that Wilson manages to make that highly unlikely plot a bit believable.

Jacob (Travis Lincoln Cox) is the junior pastor on a multi-church staff. Jacob was a missionary in Uganda and came home for this unclear position in a church of an unknown denomination (the senior pastor is Scottish, so we can’t rule out some variety of Presbyterian, though the ordination process seems to be different from any I'm aware of) We learn Jacob isn’t allowed yet to preach in “big church.” His sole assignment, as far as we see, is to teach the “new members” class which consists of three people that already are members of the church. (This led me to puzzle about the church finances. Is there any church in the world, even among the megachurches, that can afford to keep a full-time staff member who does virtually nothing? Especially if he isn’t a televangelist's son-in-law or something?)

A woman named Leah (Monika Holm) is one of the attendees in this sparsely attended membership class, and she just attends because she's infatuated with the teacher. (Leah is the niece of the senior pastor, and it's possible the only reason Jacob was hired was to be Leah’s suitor.) Leah breaks into Jacob’s office and waits for him. She greets him with these words, “You rocked my world, as usual.” (Sad to say, no one has ever said that after one of my Bible studies.)

Jacob tells Leah they shouldn’t be in his office alone, because “a pastor can’t be in any situation where there might be temptation.” She argues it’s fine for a single pastor to be alone for a woman “pushing thirty,” especially if they’re interested in one another. Jacob is quite obviously not interested in Leah.

Jacob seems more interested in his neighbor, Rachel (Kelly Cunningham). Rachel is a prostitute, and Jacob likes to talk with her when he comes home from work. She leaves her door open, even when she's out, and Jacob often goes into her apartment to wait for her to return. (Leaving the door open is a rather peculiar quirk for a prostitute. One wouldn’t think that would be a profession that would lead one to be a trusting person.)

In Jacob’s chats with Rachel, he complains about his job; she makes sly double entendres about her job. She flirts with him, but he makes it clear that he won’t compromise principles. In fact, Jacob is always going on about his principles, especially his integrity. He seems particularly proud of his integrity.

Rachel really is the most attractive character in the film. She seems to be the most honest person (sorry, Jacob) and the only person someone would like to have a drink with. (Well, sort of. In a scene set in a bar, Rachel orders a boilermaker and seems quite awkward drinking it. She also seems pretty awkward with the sex talk.)

Jacob's dinner invitation to a pastoral staff dinner is the big plot mechanism. Dr. Callahan, the world-famous author of best-selling books about marriage is to be the guest of honor at Pastor Campbell's home. (A little baffled by Biblically focused marriage books hitting the Best Sellers List, but...) Jacob adores Doc Cal, did his thesis on his work, and desperately wants to go to the dinner. But Campbell tells Jacob that no one comes to the dinner stag. He has to have a date. (This is just flat-out bizarre, a pastor setting a couples-only rule for a staff dinner with a theologian. Why did the church ever hire a pastor with such a handicap as being single?)

Pastor Campbell seems to assume that Jacob will take Leah to dinner, but instead, Jacob hires Rachel to be his date. And the zaniness begins.

Oh, I should mention what Rachel charges Jacob, besides just money. She asks him to sleep with her. Not have sex (because that couldn’t happen in a Christian film, any more than it could happen in a Doris Day film in the ’50s), just sleep. Of course, as in the sex farces of old, there are more deceptions and misunderstandings but at the end (spoiler!), unlike the sex farces of old, there’s no wedding at the end of the movie.

But as you know, we are never here to talk about the film. We're here to talk about the clergy and the church in the film. And the church and clergy of the film are really weird. 

Dr. Callahan believes the staff of the church are prideful and deceitful (with the possible exception of Jacob), but Jacob discovers he's just been deceiving himself about his own integrity. And I could never figure out what ministry the church does.

So I’m giving the church and clergy of The Pastor and the Pro a Two Steeple rating out of four.

No comments:

Post a Comment