An avid follower of film and theatre, I dismiss the mass hysteria of celebrity worship. My interest, and indeed enjoyment, is centered on the actors’ talent.
Comedy/action star Eddie Murphy’s cinematic output has always been rather shallow on Reynolds list. However, as the title character in “Mr. Church,” the film you haven’t heard of, and currently unspooling on limited screens, my assessment of Murphy, as performer has shifted from “celebrity” to “actor”. He’s got the chops in a right role unleashing creative juices which flow effectively. It represents Murphy’s first real lead as a dramatic actor, over 30 years into his movie career.
In a tidy pocket size narrative, ten year-old Charlotte “Charlie” Brody (Britt Robertson) lives with her single mother Marie (Natascha McElhone) in a small beat up Los Angeles apartment. Henry Church (Eddie Murphy) unexpectedly knocks on their door one morning. He was hired by her ex-deceased lover to take care of Charlie and Marie for six months while Marie battles breast cancer. However, six months turned into six years and Mr. Church continues to take care of Charlie and Marie.
Through the influence of Mr. Church and his love of literature, Charlie aspires to become a writer. In Charlie’s senior year of high school Marie passes away. She has been accepted to university and for the first time since meeting, she and Mr. Church go their separate ways.
Two years into college, a pregnant Charlie shows up on Mr. Church’s doorstep hoping for a place to stay for a few days. Mr. Church is happy to have Charlie under the condition that she respect his privacy. One night, while Mr. Church is out, Charlie’s curiosity
gets the best of her and she’s caught prowling in Mr. Church’s room. Church asks Charlie to leave. Days later, an accident puts Charlie in the hospital where Mr. Church shows up to take her in once again.
Charlie and her daughter, Izzy (McKenna Grace), make Church’s house their home. Mr. Church couldn’t be happier to have Charlie and Izzy living with him. He teaches Izzy everything he taught Charlie when she was a little girl. After five years Mr. Church becomes
ill and passes away. Charlie begins her first novel based on her life with Henry Church.
Screenwriter Susan McMartin was inspired by her real life friendship with the cook that came to live with her when her mother was dying of cancer.
Australian Director Bruce Beresford, noted for thought provoking narratives in “Driving Miss Daisy, “ “Double Jeopardy,” and “Crimes of the Heart,” takes a simpler route steering “Mr. Church” through quieter waters. His helming releases feelings of down home domesticity rather than big city sophistication, giving rise to heartstring-strumming melodrama. In a reflection of reality, unlikely friendships are forged by fate. Weaknesses in the developing plot can be overlooked by Eddie Murphy’s realization of a complex character who dispenses kindness in spirit and deed without expectation of reward.
“Mr. Church” and Mr. Murphy are a compatible team.
COME FROM AWAY
In the past, Gander Newfoundland was the focal point for trans Atlantic jaunts between Europe and North America. Over time, technology allowed aircraft to bypass this important stopover between continents; Gander dwindled from a bustling town to a tranquil municipality of 9,651 residents in 2001.
On September 11 that year, the plain people welcomed the plane people, when 38 aircraft with 6,500 passengers from virtually every part of the world were unexpectedly deposited on Gander’s airport runways.
So began a remarkable scenario when Gander again became a hub of international attention, and the sleepy town became a gracious host for the bewildered visitors. It was the day when New York’s twin towers were obliterated.
“Come From Away” (colloquial reference for visitors), a Canadian stage musical bound for Broaway, pays homage to the event, spinning a home spun narrative flavored with Maritime richness, heart tugging emotions, humor, song and dance.
Will New Yorkers (critics/audiences) welcome a “Canadian” epilogue to an American tragedy? One can’t help but assume audiences will be captivated by good ole politeness, charm and sincerity from their northern neighbours.
The musical, with book, lyrics and songs by the Canadian husband and wife team of Irene Sankoff and David Hein, is on stage at Toronto’s Royal Alexandra Theatre through January 8. The 109 year old Grand Dame on King Street is wearing a new dress following a multi-million dollar renovation.
Written by: Alex Reynolds