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(1999) (Ed Harris, Anne Heche) (R)

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Drama: While investigating whether a laywoman should be considered as a candidate for sainthood, a disillusioned priest finds himself questioning his own faith, particularly when he becomes involved with the woman's nonreligious, adult daughter.
It's 1979 and Frank Shore (ED HARRIS) is a postulator for the Catholic Church, although the fact that this middle-aged priest continually questions his own faith makes some wonder if he's the right choice for investigating reports of religious miracles.

Nonetheless, and due to a history of successfully debunking enough such occurrences that Frank's earned the nickname, "The Miracle Killer," Bishop Cahill (CHARLES HAID) assigns him to investigate reported miracles at St. Stanislaus in Chicago. There, Father Paul Panak (KEN JAMES) has reported various inexplicable occurrences, including a statue of the Virgin Mary that weeps blood, ever since the death several years earlier of a charitable, immigrant laywoman, Helen O'Regan (BARBARA SUKOWA).

As such, Frank must not only investigate the supernatural occurrences, but also determine whether Helen should be considered for sainthood in the Catholic Church. Thus, he begins researching the various miracles, including one involving Maria Witkowski (CATERINA SCORSONE), a prostitute and addict who was miraculously cured of a terrible disease when she was a young girl. He also meets Helen's adult daughter, Roxanna (ANNE HECHE), a bitter, nonreligious young woman who still harbors ill feelings toward her mother for leaving her while a teen to work for the Church, and thinks consideration of her as a saint is pathetic.

With the aide of Brother Gregory (JAMES GALLANDERS) who serves as his assistant detective of sorts, Frank continues his difficult quest all while discussing his own faith-related problems with fellow priest John Leone (MICHAEL RISPOLI). Despite their differences and varying beliefs and the potential for such a romance clouding his judgment, Frank also finds himself falling for Roxanna.

Eventually, however, he must face a Vatican-appointed committee led by Cardinal Sarrazin (JEAN-LOUIS ROUX) that also includes Archbishop Werner (ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL), known as the "Devil's Advocate" and his staunch doubts - especially related to the possibility of an American saint. They not only question Frank's findings regarding Helen, but also his qualifications for leading such an investigation. Despite mounting objections, the obligatory and necessary three miracles for consideration of sainthood, and in spite of his and other's doubts about himself, Frank continues on his steadfast course to make sure Helen has her posthumous shot of becoming a saint.

Unless they're fans of someone in the cast or are heavily into the subject matter of miracles in the Catholic Church, it's not very likely.
For some language, sex-related and violent images, and brief drug use.
  • ED HARRIS plays a middle-aged postulator, a priest whose job is to investigate allegations of miracles and recommend individuals for sainthood. While he's quite good at what he does, he questions his own faith (while also using terms such as "G-damn"), uses profanity, drinks, admits to not being a virgin (from before he was a priest) and finds himself falling for Roxanna. Despite his problems and self-doubts about himself and his own faith, he works tirelessly to have Helen considered for sainthood.
  • ANNE HECHE plays the estranged and nonreligious daughter of the woman in question for sainthood, who still harbors ill feeling toward her deceased mother and smokes a few times. She also finds herself falling for Frank.
  • ARMIN MUELLER-STAHL plays a bishop who doesn't like Frank or the thoughts of an American laywoman being considered for sainthood. As such, he continually tries to debunk both Frank and his findings.
  • CHARLES HAID plays a local bishop who assigns Frank to the case, briefly uses some profanity and appears to possibly be somewhat corrupt (at least to some extent).
  • JAMES GALLANDERS plays another religious figure who assists Frank in his investigation.
  • JEAN-LOUIS ROUX plays the wise and venerable cardinal who heads the Vatican-assigned committee that investigates Frank's findings.
  • CATERINA SCORSONE plays the former childhood recipient of a miracle who's grown up to become a prostitute and addict who use strong profanity.


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.

    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).

    The following is a summary of the content found in this R-rated drama. Profanity is heavy due to the use of at least 7 "f" words, while a handful of other profanities and colorful phrases also occur. In a flashback, some WWII violence (bombings) is present. In addition and although both occur off camera, a minor character is murdered (with bloody results) and another is badly beaten, while some flashbacks show that a mother abused her child (with cigarette burns, etc.).

    Much of the film revolves around a disillusioned priest who questions his own faith while investigating the validity of miracles and a statue that weeps blood. While religion itself isn't attacked, some Catholic viewers may take offense at some negative representations of higher Catholic officials.

    In addition, the priest falls for (and makes out with) a nonreligious woman and appears to have a bit of drinking problem for part of the film (others drink and some smoking also occurs, while we briefly see some drug use on the streets). Some sexually related material is present in the form of a miscellaneous character appearing to be masturbating under the sheets and a briefly seen sketch of a nude woman on a wall. A minor character is a prostitute and part of a man's bare butt is briefly seen.

    Should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone else in your home, we suggest that you take a closer look at our more detailed content listings.

  • Cahill asks Frank if he wants a drink, and then pours some for Frank and himself, while John then has one as well (although we don't seem them drinking).
  • Some friends of Frank's drink beer.
  • We briefly see some miscellaneous man preparing to inject heroin or some related drug into a user's arm.
  • Frank drinks liquor.
  • Frank has a shot of liquor and asks for a refill. Later, he shows up at church and appears to be intoxicated.
  • At her mother's gravesite, Roxanna asks Frank if he'd like to share a drink with them on the anniversary of her mother's death. He agrees and we then see both he and Roxanna drink vodka from the bottle and pour some on the grave.
  • After witnessing the statue bleeding from the eyes, Frank decides to change his ways and we see him pouring out his liquor.
  • People have drinks at a reception.
  • Members of the Vatican tribunal have wine with dinner.
  • People have drinks at Roxanna's party.
  • In a flashback to WWII, we briefly see a German soldier with a slightly bloody bandage over the stump on his leg.
  • We see a flashback where a young Maria walks into a church service with blood covering her face (from the statue outside).
  • We briefly see a miscellaneous person on the street who has some blood on their head.
  • We see a brief shot of blood running from a statue of the Virgin Mary.
  • We see another instance of blood running from the eyes of the above statue (and Frank briefly tastes it to see if it's real).
  • We see a murder victim lying on the floor, his face bloody and a pool of blood around his head on the floor. Later, we see Maria in the hospital from this attack and she has quite a black eye.
  • In a flashback, we see some cigarette burn marks on Maria's arm.
  • Although the film doesn't attack Catholicism per se, its negative representation of some of the higher officials within the Church might be offensive to some Catholics (as might a flashback where it's suggested that a priest committed suicide and may have been involved to some degree with devil worship of sorts).
  • Cahill uses some disrespectful ethnic terms/slurs while talking with Frank.
  • We hear that Maria is a prostitute and we briefly see her pimp and one of her clients.
  • Some may see Frank's taking of money from the offering box and giving it to Maria (possibly to sustain her habit) as having some of both types of attitudes.
  • The same holds true for him making out with Roxanna (and briefly falling for her).
  • Whoever beat Maria and killed her pimp has extreme cases of both.
  • Maria's mother abused her when she was a child (in a flashback we see that she's burnt Maria with her cigarette).
  • Werner comes off as a condescending and unfriendly man who seems to have it out for Frank and his cause.
  • Although it's not accompanied by suspenseful music, a WWII flashback scene showing villagers fleeing from a bombing run may be suspenseful or unsettling to some viewers.
  • WWII weapons: Bombs drop on a village, destroying property and wounding/killing people, while soldiers carry machine guns/rifles.
  • Phrases: "What the f*ck?" "Sh*t house," "Busting my balls," "Slut," "Whore" and "Jerk."
  • None.
  • None.
  • None.
  • At least 7 "f" words, 4 "s" words, 1 ass (used with "hole"), 1 hell, 4 uses of "G-damn" and 1 use each of "Oh my God" and "Oh my Lord" as exclamations.
  • In a flashback to WWII and a communal sleeping area, we briefly see a man's hand rhythmically moving under the sheets near his crotch, suggesting that he's masturbating.
  • Frank spots Maria getting into a truck to perform some sort of prostitution related behavior, but Frank interrupts her and the man before anything happens.
  • Frank tells Roxanna that he's not a virgin and that he had his experiences in high school.
  • Frank and Roxanna do some passionate making out at her place, but it never leads to anything else.
  • In a rundown room, we briefly see a sketch of a woman that shows full frontal nudity.
  • In a flashback and as Maria sneaks out of her mother's home, we see her mother sleeping in bed with a man who's nude and as such, we see part of his bare butt (as he lies on his side).
  • Roxanna smokes several times, while Cahill smokes once (a cigar) as does Maria's mother and a few miscellaneous characters.
  • In a flashback, we see a miscellaneous woman who's distraught about her sick son's condition.
  • Roxanna doesn't think highly of her mother since she left her for the Church at the age of sixteen.
  • We see a flashback to Maria's mother burning her with a cigarette and of the little girl later running away from home.
  • A mother must watch as her young adult daughter is taken off life support in a hospital.
  • The whole topic of miracles and saints.
  • What the third miracle of this film's title and plot might be (it's never explained).
  • In a flashback to WWII, villagers flee their homes as bombs dropped from bombers explode in their village, wounding or killing some. We briefly see a German soldier with a slightly bloody bandage over the stump on his leg.
  • We see a murder victim lying on the floor, his face bloody and a pool of blood around his head on the floor. Later, we see Maria in the hospital from this attack and she has quite a black eye.
  • In a flashback, we see that Maria's mother has burned the young girl on the arm with her cigarette.

  • Reviewed February 4, 2000 / Posted February 11, 2000

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