Review: “Honk For Jesus: Save Your Soul”

Honk For Jesus

Tradition and nostalgia can often be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it’s nice to honor the ways of the past and to appreciate the vision. On the other hand, the past – or what we’re shown of it, in any case – is not often inclusive of things like women’s rights, the LGBTQ community, or really anyone who was not a straight male.

On her new album Renaissance, Beyoncé has a song simply titled “Church Girls”. It’s not just a designation, it’s a whole way of life, an institution that has affected the lives of women across the country. I was a church girl. I learned my place early on from the moment that Eve got the brunt of biting that apple. From the moment I was told to wear skirts but not too short, and high collared shirts, but not too tight. We wouldn’t want to distract the men from their soul searching after all.

Adanna and Adanne Ebo
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Writer/director Adamma Ebo and producer Adanne Ebo on the set of their film HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL., a Focus Features release.
Credit: Steve Swisher / © 2021 Pinky Promise LLC

There’s something about growing up with that environment as your basis, your normal, that when a movie like Honk For Jesus, Save Your Soul, the new Focus Features film by the Ebo sisters, premieres, it rocks you to your core.

The film stars Regina Hall as Trinitie Childs, the first lady of Wander to Greater Paths Baptist church and wife of Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), the church’s pastor. After being closed for a time following a pastoral sex scandal, the Childs are reopening Wander the Greater Path hoping to entice their old community to come back to the fold. To document the occasion, Lee-Curtis has hired a documentary crew, much to the blessed Trinitie’s dismay. She’s wary of their intentions and seems to be far less enthusiastic and trusting as her husband,

Through it all we watch as this couple tries to deal with past allegations, while also dealing with former members and now co-pastors of Heaven’s House, Shakura (Nicole Beharie) and Keon (Conphidance) Sumpter. Many of the Childs’ former congregation has migrated to Heaven’s House save for five loyal members. It’s worth mentioning that Wander the Greater Path was a mega-church with powerful ties to the local community. The Childs keep Prada at church in case they need to change at the last minute, Trinitie’s collection of crowns is worth thousands, and they have thrones on stage where they sit for special occasions.

Their wealth doesn’t just elevate them, it defines them, and the threat against the wealth through Lee-Curtis’ alleged doing is what finally causes Trinitie to consider whether she wants to go back to the way things were. It seems she and Lee-Curtis have very different opinions on what their past looked like.

If being a church girl is one journey, going from a church girl to a first lady is another. You do the most work though you never receive any recognition. We see Trinitie deal with this as Lee-Curtis preens and pomps for the camera. There’s a wild desperation in Lee-Curtis, but there’s an exhausted acquiescence in Trinitie.

Regina Hall in Honk For Jesus
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Regina Hall stars as Trinitie Childs in HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL., a Focus Features release.
Credit: Steve Swisher / © 2021 Pinky Promise LLC

I want Regina Hall to get her roses, the rose bush, the garden, the ground and any piece of land she wants for this performance. Many of us first encountered Regina as the relatable Brenda in Scary Movie. “She don’t love herself” is a phrase still in peak rotation and said in only a way that Regina Hall could deliver. Since then she’s been in a wide breadth of films and TV and each one showcases how multifaceted she is. From the chilling Master to the wild ride that was Nine Perfect Strangers, Regina Hall has a tendency towards picking projects absolutely suited to her. Or, she may be just that good at embodying any character.

On the surface Trinitie can seem like the kind of first lady who means well and wants to do right, but has become a bit too materialistic. She’s not plastic though, and Hall expertly ripped away Trinitie’s seams until we saw her true interior. She serves as the perfect companion, yet also contrast to Brown’s Lee-Curtis.

I had the pleasure of speaking with the production team – writer/director Adamma and executive producer Adanne Ebo about the film and I wondered what the world would look like if Trinitie and Lee-Curtis were simply best friends who decided to run a church together? It’s a sentiment they’d heard before and it makes sense. Lee-Curtis and Trinitie have the relationship of a couple who grew up together and have probably always lived in their same hometown. They know each other better than anyone else; the issue is they probably don’t love each other romantically, or at least they can never get on the same page to really try. They adhere to these outdated principals of what a pastor should look like and even more, the role a first lady should play versus the one she actually does.

The Sumptors
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Conphidance and Nicole Beharie star as Keon and Shakura Sumpter in HONK FOR JESUS. SAVE YOUR SOUL., a Focus Features release.
Credit: Steve Swisher / © 2021 Pinky Promise LLC

Brown and Hall play off of each other beautifully and you’re able to understand – though not necessarily agree with – Trinitie’s decision to stay. Brown does a beautiful job of offering peaks behind the facade of Lee-Curtis and you see his layers are intimate as he’s repressed so much of his true self.

There’s so much to talk about with this film, I can’t recommend it enough. For those well versed in church politics, you’ll enjoy all of the wonderful Easter eggs. For those not, you’ll enjoy the Google searches afterwards, but before that you’ll enjoy a tale as old as time – a woman finding her strength as she stands on the precipice of losing everything.

Honk for Jesus, Save Your Soul premieres in theaters and streaming on Peacock, September 2nd.

 

 


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