Summary "Mr. Church" tells the story of a unique friendship that develops when a
little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook
- Henry Joseph Church. What begins as a six month arrangement instead
spans into fifteen years and creates a family bond that lasts forever.
Genre : Drama Country : USA
Cast : Eddie Murphy: Henry Joseph Church
Britt Robertson : Charlie Natascha McElhone : Marie
Director : Bruce Beresford
“The wise son seeketh
the father's instruction,
but the scorner heareth not rebuke.
I don't give a shit.”
The quote above is, believe it or not, pronounced at a given moment by Mr. Church (Eddie Murphy) while he was drunk. Apparently alcohol has such an impact on him that he starts to use a vocabulary in such a way, an ordinary mortal can only guess the ultimate significance of what he's saying. This was also the first time I totally didn't understand what Eddie Murphy was talking about at that very moment (maybe it's due to my limited knowledge of English). In "Mr. Church"you'll see a totally different Murphy at work. No smooth talking and witty one-liners. Don't expect to hear that catchy, infamous laugh from him. Not once it'll echo through the living room. Nope, here he puts himself in the shoes of a gentle, helpful and warmhearted cook who tries to accomplish a given task with conviction and empathy.
This task was entrusted to him by Richard Cannon. He was once the lover of Marie Brody (Natascha McElhone) who left him after discovering that he was already married. However, he promised that he would always take care of her. Even after his death. If it turns out that Marie is terminally ill and only has six months to live, her daughter Charlie (Natalie Coughlin) discovers one morning there's a "black man" making breakfast in their kitchen. And from that day on Mr. Chruch conjures delicious dishes out of his culinary magic hat. So, you can expect a whole series of hunger-arousing images. It's almost similar to a Jamie Oliver TV show. Afterwards we come to know that Marie is still fighting her terminal illness after six years. Church's role as family cook slowly disappears into the background and over time he becomes the paterfamilias and acts as a father figure to Charlotte (Britt Robertson).
Here, where I live, the remark after watching this movie would be "Wow, what a lovely film this was!". Granted, it's packed with cliché elements as used in any melodramatic coming of age film. The course is extremely predictable. Not much imagination is needed to realize that the roles will be reversed at any given time and how it's going to end. Both at the beginning and at the end they used the same text fragment "Henry Joseph Church could have been anything he wanted. He chose to cook.". A subtle clue pointing at the cyclical nature of the film. But despite being a typical tearjerker, this film was able to captivate and fascinate me. Maybe because from time to time I need to watch a more positive film. Most films are about the evil side of a person. This film is about loyalty, affection, offering some help during hard times and the importance of family ties. You can start whining again about the possible racist tone and thus seeing Mr. Church as the happy, cheerful house negro who serves a white family. A kind of modern "Uncle Tom" in other words. It didn't feel like that for me. And I'm convinced you missed the essence of the story.
But what's Mr.Church's big secret, anyway? He loves jazz. That's clear from the first moment. He's probably a jazz pianist. I noticed that he was pretending to play a piano on his knees while smoking a cigarette outside and listening to a jazz song in the background. He also mentioned it in a subtle way to Marie. And his visits to the nightclub Jelly (Charlie discovered this by accident when she was driving around the city with Poppy), a neon-lit bar you instantly have feelings about that it's a jazz club, seemed to me the appropriate place to find an audience for his talent. He paints, reads literature and uses secret ingredients while cooking. But are these really such big secrets that one should remain silent about it? Hearing what Mr. Church said when he came home drunk, I have a feeling it's more about his sexual orientation.
"Yeah, that's right! I'm a sinner! Who's a fagot? You the goddamn fagot. "
It stays a secret all the way. Nothing but praise for Eddie Murphy who attempts to get rid of his stand-up comedian label. And he succeeds perfectly. It's a pleasure to see him playing the two opposing Mr. Churches. On the one hand a dutiful and human figure. On the other a tormented person who still hasn't come to terms with his past. Also the acting of both Natascha McElhone as Britt Robertson can be called excellent. Especially the moments with Murphy and McElhone are sublime. Maybe it all feels a bit corny and old-fashioned. But it still remains a lovely film.