As a human race, we are always on the look out for the divine. Life can be complicated, devastating, and on occasion beautiful; and many find solace in a higher power to help them navigate through it all. There are many avenues one can choose from to make a personal connection that’s right for them. But what happens when that decision was never made? In the new film by Steven Chester Prince, Divine Access questions what is the importance of religion and whether it should be an internal connection or one spoken to the masses.
Jake (Billy Burke) grew up in a religiously open household with a mother who dabbled in many spiritual experiences. Instead of attaching himself to one sect, he took the teachings of many to form a life code all his own. When he does a favor for his friend Bob (Patrick Warburton) who produces an access show by being a guest on it, he inadvertently humiliates Reverend Guy Roy Davis (Gary Cole). This then finds him as a new motivational speaker and modern day prophet.
In a film that has a heavy topic at it’s center, religion, Divine Access, does a brilliant job at not becoming an overbearing preachy film. The point, at least the one I received while watching the film, is that no matter what religion you attach yourself to, it’s how you live your life that’s important. Many people have different ideas of what spiritual paths they chose to follow, and by showcasing a few, Prince acknowledges that there is no right or wrong. The concern becomes, then, how much of a role this plays in our outwardly life. The focus is on the treatment of others and how you view yourself through those spiritual eyes.
There may be moments of question regarding the way the Reverend is portrayed, and whether it slips into a cliche approach. It’s not that he’s seen in flashy million dollar suits or speaking to arena filled audiences, but whether he can separate his “fame” from his teachings. However, it’s not a large leap to switch focus from cliche to commentary on how some view themselves in the religious landscape. While I may not agree, or like, the ending of the film, that question is posed and addressed full on, promoting a conversation of the topic to engage in.
A strong and introspective script can only go so far, and thankfully for this film, the script was enhanced by the choice of casting. The four main actors are ones you’ve seen before (Burke, Warburton, Cole, and Joel David Moore), some that are so iconic in their previous roles it’s hard not to immediately think of that beloved show when gazing at their brilliant face. The beauty about these actors, though, is that they are able to overcome their previous work each time to set new standards in the characters they create. After the initial starry eyed recognition of these fine actors, it was easy to get lost in their characters and dive head first into the story at hand.
While entranced in the story, my attention perked at hearing random Texas cities. Being a generational Texan, certain names trigger a natural response, like for example Brownsville. As it turns out, the film is set in Texas, no particular place, just Texas. The cherry on top was that this was filmed in Austin. It may not seem like this should be a talking point of a film, but when you are in the thick of the entertainment industry in Austin, realizing a film was shot here without ‘realizing’ it is a huge deal.
Prince and his crew were able to find the gems in Austin filming and were able to construct a world unseen before in the same streets we’ve grown to love. That’s not to say previous films are rubbish, because each were able to use Austin to their advantage, but it’s refreshing to know that after all these years Austin can still be discovered.
Freedom seems to be an interesting theme in this film. Freedom from expectations (character actors) and regulations (religious design) allows one to fully engage in exploration. If unchecked, however, this freedom can turn into misfortune. Two quotes from the film which have provoked my thoughts, “you can’t know the unknowable” and “revelation without compassion is just complaining.” These are perfect examples of what can happen when we talk without thinking or think too much about what we talk about.
Divine Access is in limited theatrical release on May 13th and on VOD on May 17th.
Written by Lisa Mejia
Images provided by Prodigy PR