July 25, 2006

Resurrection (1980)
Grade: 55/100

Director: Daniel Petrie
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Sam Shephard, Richard Farnsworth

What it's about. Nice girl Ellen Burstyn has a horrific car accident, which kills her husband (next time, buy him a watch for his birthday). Her heart stops briefly on the operating table, but she pulls through although confined to a wheelchair. Returning to her parent's family farm, she realizes she has the power to heal, both others and herself. While curing evey sick person in the county, she begins an affair with young Sam Shephard, who's pleasant enough at first but then begins to take after his troublemaking, religion-nutty father.

How others will see it. Wouldn't it be nice if there is not only life after death, but everyone goes to Heaven, too. And it would be swell if a brush with death gave people the ability to heal. Forget hospitals and insurance, what we need is a woman whose heartbeat was briefly interupted. She'll fix you right up.

Trouble is, it seems likely that there is no afterlife, except to the extent that some of your atoms are eventually reconstituted into other beings. Also, nobody can dramatically cure others with their hands. Sorry. So, the film's premises are relegated to the realm of science fiction. Which is often worthwhile, and is nearly so in the case of the present lukewarm adventure.

This slow-moving and mildly preposterous movie has an above average script, which helps compensate for its pedestrian, workmanlike direction. You'll probably like Ellen Burstyn, and share her pride in her many little triumphs. Whether you'll accept Sam Shephard's character turns (wild redneck, attentive boyfriend, confused Bible-reader, armed lunatic) is a different matter.

Conservatives and devoted Christians may be offended by the film's suggestion that too much Bible study leads to harrassment, violence, and madness on the part of the devout. A college professor once informed me that the Bible can support any argument, if the right quotes are applied. But that doesn't mean reading the Bible will transform you into a psycho. If you fill in the blanks the wrong way, the blame belongs to you.

How I felt about it. One of the hidden themes of Resurrection is that stardom can change the entourage to a greater extent than the principal herself. Grandma and Grandpa are pretty much the same, respectively understanding and taciturn, but the boyfriend changes completely, and the townsfolk soon regard Burstyn as a novel form of entertainment. Can she heal this person? What's next?

Burstyn's changes are at first physical: she can walk, at first with a cane, then without. She also develops a knack for public speaking, which seems expected of her since miracles and ministry are intermingled in the minds of the conservative, religious farm families. But her gentle and informal pronoucements are insufficiently zealous to please the fundamentalists, which eventually force her to flee the curious, the demented, and the scientists by living undercover at a gas station in the middle of nowhere. What she really needs is a reality television show set in a hospital.

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