Friday, January 19, 2018

Created Equal: Movie Review

A legal drama with something interesting to say.
Starring Aaron Tveit as a cocky lawyer and Lou Diamond Phillips as the quietly-confident representative for the Catholic Church, Created Equal does the important things right. A name cast to try and garner some interest in this small independent feature, but more importantly, it picks an interesting case and argues both sides. It picks apart the legal and theological arguments both for and against the church’s right to disallow women into the seminary. 2018

Directed by: Bill Duke

Screenplay by: Ned Bowman, Joyce Renee Lewis, and Michael Ricigliano Jr
Based on the novel by R.A. Brown

Starring: Edy Ganem, Aaron Tveit

It opens with Alejandra Batista (Edy Ganem), a young woman, devout Catholic, working in the church advising children that they can grow up to be anything they want. One little girl declares she wants to be a Priest, but an older nun is quick to discourage her – women can’t become Priests and the church has successfully quashed another person’s dreams. Our central character is not that little girl all grown up, but Alejandra. She’s partly responsible for implanting those dreams, and does not understand why she can’t be a Priest when she more than meets all other requirements. That conversation goes something like “Why?” “Because you can’t” “But why not?” “Because” and as the film tells us, this is not the first time she’s had that conversation. Now is the time to call a lawyer.

One of my main takeaways from the film is that these are smart writers – take one of your toughest debate classes in high school and successfully argue both sides, and then add actual legal, theological and sociological knowledge to give it real merit and consideration. It’s not an easy task, especially to also frame it as a dramatic narrative to give it a movie structure and keep the audience invested. It really is thought-provoking up until the very end; it also has a well thought-out ending which should be satisfying to viewers on both sides.

There are some movie moments, like a side story-line to show how Tommy (Tveit) is a commitment-phobe womanizer, that don’t add anything to an otherwise interesting story. Drawing in the personal elements isn’t a strong point, and the editing also slows down the film right when we get to trial – showing an inability to capitalize on their strengths. But it’s easy enough to get past all that when you know the film has something interesting – and important – to say about the role of women in religion, and then the role of the state in religion.

Based on the same-titled novel by R.A. Brown, Created Equal is reasonably entertaining, but triumphantly tackles that interesting gray area where it’s not based on a true story but it is based on real life. I recommend it for fans of legal dramas/thrillers that want something to think about.