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Tribeca 2016: Mr. Church Review

For the past four years there has been an absence of Eddie Murphy in all forms of media. And you can’t really blame him since his last film was A Thousand Words in 2012 which could’ve been a career killer to him. It was a dated film that was made and now 4 years later and Murphy is back with a drama? Yeah, a drama and I’m stunned to say that a drama starring Eddie Murphy is one of the best films I’ve seen this year.

"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 fifteen years, and creates a family bond that lasts forever.

Most of the film isn’t centered on Eddie Murphy but is on Britt Robertson as Charlie and her connection with Mr. Church from childhood to adulthood through her mother being diagnosed with breast cancer. The movie is based on a true friendship from screenwriter Susan McMartin in her life. So with a story like this, there is no other director that can direct heartwarming drama than Bruce Beresford [Driving Miss Daisy] .

What makes this film remarkable is that from the beginning of Robertson’s narration you are introduced into the lives of Charlie and Mr. Church and their unlikely bond. People love stories about two separate characters having a close bond especially if one of them is biased against the other. In Mr. Church, the bond isn’t forced or anything but is very genuine where the food he cooked bought them together. Through the film, we are introduced to the people in Charlie’s life besides her Mr. Church and her mother from her best friend, to her crush, to even a guy on the bus and they play a good chunk into Charlie’s life story even as an adult. When they are reintroduced into the film when Robertson is all grown up to be a 20 something year old adult, they have their own little character arc subplot of significance that genuinely makes you smile.

Britt Robertson carries her own into the film, because since the film is centered on her life she has to act her way through the entire film and she does a stellar job. Though she is great as Charlie, her character gets under your skin sometimes. She is a bit too noisy for her own good, and when she feels a certain way she says something very mean to anyone around her. This happens once in a while in the film, but then once she’s toned down she goes back into being a really good character.  For her time onscreen Natascha McElhone does a fantastic job as Charlie’s mom to a point she says some things that leaves you in tears. But really the person who holds this film together is Eddie Murphy.

With Mr. Church, you have Eddie Murphy not cracking a single joke or one liner all the way through which is a lot of dedication to the genre he’s working with now. Instead, he is less of a “mystical magical negro” to the family but more of a the wise father figure to Charlie who is very respectable to everyone he meets.  It’s until the first hour mark where you see a little bit into Mr. Church’s life through the eyes of Charlie and how all of that respectable manner cannot stay forever so when you see the other side of Mr. Church, it’s frighting to see and heartbreaking to experience.

Well most of the film is very sentimental but doesn’t overdo the sentimentality of the story. There are moments when the film may be a bit Hallmark-ish, but when an emotional scene gets you it gets you hard where you are literally tearing up. I remember being in the theater when I was crying for the first out of four times with this movie and thought there was a problem with myself. Was I the one who was being too soft for this movie? So then I turned to an old woman next to me and saw tears coming out of her eyes. I then turned to my friend and saw tears coming from her eyes, and then I heard sniffling and sighing two seats away from me. As I looked back at the screen it was amazing to see a movie starring Eddie Murphy, did not only make me cry but made a good majority of the audience cry. If that isn’t a great a film then I don’t know what is.

This film isn’t only a great coming of age story, but is a celebration of life and growing up that does it more effectively than Boyhood with a shorter running time and better characters with deeper dimensions and more relatable connections [and I love Boyhood too].

Mr. Church is a remarkable film that celebrates life and the people we surround ourselves with. With a tight script that was greatly inspired, and a very strong and talented cast especially Murphy, yhis is the film is not only the comeback that Eddie Murphy needed but the comeback he deserved.

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