Man Who Sued God

Movie Review by Stephen Doyle

Starring: Billy Connolly, Judy Davis, Colin Friels, Bille Brown, Wendy Hughes, Blair Venn
Director: Mark Joffe

There is a telling scene towards the end of this movie in which the protagonist has an epiphany: under a soothing piece of classical music the dejected man first visits a church and then a synagogue in search of inspiration and the scene is inter-cut with shots of other characters’ quiet contemplation. It’s a simple but subtle and moving scene, which hints towards the peaks that the film comes close to reaching.

Yet the movie is still a thoroughly enjoyable and charming romp. As the title accurately suggests, the appealing plot concerns itself with a man who sues God. When Steve Myers’ (Billy Connolly) boat, which also serves as his home and livelihood, is destroyed by a bolt of lightning, the insurance company refuses to pay out, claiming they do not cover Acts of God. Desperate and drunk, he commences legal proceedings against God, or at least, His representatives on earth – the leaders of the Jewish and Christian faiths. Soon hundreds more people who have lost money through the Act of God clause join him on his crusade and the case becomes an international cause celebre.

This could have been an absolute gem of a movie – an accomplished comedy drama, the like of which Australia and Britain are surprisingly adept at making (think MONTY, ELLIOT and MURIEL). As it is, the direction seldom rises above the competent and the screenplay could have used some further rewrites. The magic touch, which catapulted the aforementioned films to international awards and acclaim, is lacking here.

The movie’s main selling point is Connolly’s exuberant performance. Indeed, he is a remarkable presence with his gangly features, wild hair and rich Scottish brogue. He exudes charisma and affability from every pore and it’s hard not to warm to him. His romance with a female journalist who takes up his story plays out nicely and is ultimately convincing. But while his comic talents are used effectively, his emotional depth, which his short filmography has proven to be very impressive, is not capitalized on. This is unfortunate because Steve Myers is, on paper at least, a strong character with which you expect many stirring scenes, especially with Connolly at the helm. Sadly the hoped for scenes fail to materialise and other actors are similarly left short-changed.

Despite an awful lot of potential being wasted in this fashion, the film still remains incredibly entertaining. It zips along at an easily digested 102 minutes and the direction, though somewhat flawed, is undeniably enthusiastic. We must at least thank Mark Joffe for not bogging the movie down with sentimentality, as many other directors would have relished doing. He leaves us with a good, if not great, feelgood film.

4 out of 6 stars

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