Steve Martin, Debra Winger, Meat Loaf, Liam Neeson, Lolita Davidovich
"Leap of Faith" requires a sort of leap of faith to fully appreciate it. There is, quite potentially, much here to NOT like. I'm not really sure why I have such a strong appreciation for this film, but I cannot deny that every time I've gotten the chance I've found myself watching AND enjoying this film tremendously.
"Leap of Faith" centers on the life of Jonas Nightingale, a traveling preacher who is a fake faith healer...I don't think this script maximizes the use of Martin in this role. In some ways, I think he was born to play such a faith healer...it allows him to utilize the Martin charm, humor and intellect to create a character that is both captivating and conniving. It's prime Martin material. While it's a surprisingly subdued performance much of the time, I still like what Martin brings to the table here.
Just as attractive for me here is the performance of Debra Winger as his sidekick who begins to question everything. Winger does a nice job with a character who does an about face in the course of the film.
Lolita Davidovich leads a wonderful supporting cast that includes Liam Neeson, Lukas Haas, Meatloaf and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. While I'd like to see the supporting roles fleshed out more, I also felt like the actors brought out what they could and Haas and Davidovich were particularly effective.
I could see easily where Christians, especially those who are into the "revival" scene...would be somewhat bothered by this film. It clearly looks at the "business" of religion and doesn't really look upon it favorably...yet, with the number of televangelist scandals and other Christian controversies it is hard to argue with a film such as this one.
In some ways, my enjoyment of this film defies explanation...it is not about reason or logic...it is not really even about true critical analysis. I can certainly find faults within this film. Yet, I give this film major kudos because time after time I have watched it and surrendered to the story. The characters have resonated with me over the past 12 years and I have cared about them. Any film that can accomplish that gets a higher rating in my world!
© Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic