Sundance 2022: Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Review
Religion as a commodity takes center stage in the satirical Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. Written and directed by Adamma Ebo, this farcical examination of two figures in the Southern Baptist church community finds its humor in the smaller cracks beneath the grandiose gestures. Led by Sterling K. Brown and Regina Hall’s larger-than-life performances, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a thorough examination of a power couple in religion finding the road back to success (and profits) to be more difficult than they expected.
Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) finds herself burdened with the task of handling the aftermath of her husband Lee-Curtis Childs’ (Sterling K. Brown) scandal that led the couple to a fall from grace. That scandal – which resurfaces throughout their staged comeback – has left them fighting to bring their church, Wandering To Greater Paths, back to the same level of success it saw prior.
Shot mostly in a faux-documentary style, Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. emphasizes the vanity of its two lead characters as they attempt to resurrect their brand and loyalty within the church. It’s an interesting choice that lends itself well to capturing the duality between public and personal lives. It’s specifically the cracks in the facade that particularly draw out that schism. Brown’s character and performance are the biggest examples of how that works really well, often breaking in front of the camera and showing genuine emotion that could risk his career.
It’s the controlling Trinitie that attempts to maintain control of the narrative surrounding them and Regina Hall is pulling the strings wonderfully. Her performance is a juggling act thanks to the film’s dual forms of presentation and her chemistry with Brown creates an entertaining couple to watch self-destruct in slow-motion. Their conversations reveal a heartbreak in Trinitie and an insecurity in Lee-Curtis that just can’t be forced through. Every moment intended to show that they are better people only further exemplifies how permanently corrupt someone can become.
There’s a much more entertaining film somewhere in Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. but it’s not evident in the final product. The humor is hit-or-miss, the emotional beats are carried by the performances and not really by the screenplay, and the decision to incorporate a documentary crew within the film doesn’t end up feeling fully fleshed out. There’s an undeniable energy in Ebo’s debut and a creativity, but Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. winds up being an actor’s showcase first and foremost in an otherwise decent satire.