The Apostle

on December 19, 1997 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
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   Actor Robert Duvall has long wanted to make this intimate epic about a preacher forced to reappraise his life when he commits a crime and is compelled to leave his community. But "The Apostle" doesn't have much depth; as a study of spiritual crisis, it falls short of such modern classics as "Christ Stopped at Eboli" or "The Seventh Seal."
   Duvall, who also directs and scripts, stars as "Sonny" Dewey, a fire-and-brimstone Texas preacher who is shocked to discover that his beautiful wife (Farah Fawcett) has a lover. She demands a divorce, he acquiesces; but one day, in a jealous rage, he lashes out, puts his wife's boyfriend in a coma and has to leave Texas in a hurry. He ends up in a black Louisiana town, where he takes on the charismatic mantle of "The Apostle" and the goal of building himself a new church.
   Horton Foote ("Tender Mercies") could have written a compelling story on this theme, but Duvall doesn't acquit himself at all, either as an actor or as a filmmaker. His Sonny, a one-note performance, doesn't examine himself that much and seems more concerned about being apart from his wife and children than about the mortal danger he's put another man in. Even his familial longings aren't that deep; he soon begins a relationship with a secretary ("The Designated Mourner's" Miranda Richardson) at the radio station at which he broadcasts a show.
   "The Apostle" is overly long, lacks atmosphere and doesn't seem interested in giving the rest of the cast, including Billy Bob Thornton ("Sling Blade"), much to do. Clearly, this is Duvall's baby, and he doesn't much care about any aspect of the film that doesn't directly involve him. This vanity project is likely to appeal only to its lead actor's immediate circle of friends and family.    Starring Robert Duvall, Farah Fawcett and Miranda Richardson. Directed and written by Robert Duvall. Produced by Robert Carliner. An October release. Drama. Rated PG-13 for thematic elements and a related scene of violence. Running time: 150 min. Screened at Toronto.
Tags: Robert Duvall, Farah Fawcett and Miranda Richardson. Directed and written by Robert Duvall. Produced by Robert Carliner. An October release. Drama, church, coma, charismatic, relationship, secretary
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