Following your heart despite the opinions of your loved ones takes great strength—something that Mark Wahlberg recognized when he decided to bring the story of Stuart Long, better known as Stu, to the big screen in Father Stu.
Father Stu tells the story of Long, a boxer turned actor turned baptized Catholic turned priest. He devoted himself to each profession with everything he had, even when everyone told him he wouldn’t succeed. He faced significant setbacks, including injuries and illnesses, but he always found a way through and did not lose hope.
“Stu’s challenging you to be a little bit better,” Wahlberg said at the premiere of Father Stu in Boston. “You’ll see that when you see the movie. He’d want you to do a little bit more and to be a little bit better.”
While the storyline is both compelling and heartwarming, the movie frequently jumps around, creating a choppy plot that can be hard to follow. The film tried to pack every relevant detail of Long’s life into a two hour–long movie. Watching Father Stu felt like riding a roller coaster, but instead of emotional ups and downs, it delivered an overwhelming rush of information and details.
The movie successfully highlights the cultural era of the ’80s, featuring popular fashion of the period. While there were no jarring mullets, huge perms, or neon clothes, Stu (Wahlberg) has a dated wardrobe that included distressed jeans and old, white tank tops.
The soundtrack is also oldschool, including “9 to 5” by Dolly Parton as another subtle indication of the time period. The music demonstrated Stu’s country roots as well, playing more country music than pop or classic rock, two genres that were popular in the ’80s.
The two big names in the movie—Wahlberg and Mel Gibson, who plays Stu’s father—did not have as much screen time as a viewer might think considering their fame and acting chops. Wahlberg is the star of the film, but Gibson only trickled into the movie at points, more at the end than any other time.
Gibson’s main purpose was to drive home the point that Stu’s father was absent from his life. Almost every scene the actors appeared in together involved yelling and heavy amounts of swearing. And like most movies that involve boxers, there’s an overarching metaphor in the film about fighting to survive in every aspect of life.
Comedic elements are laced throughout the movie, but the jokes often fall flat. One of the standout comedic moments is when Stu, before becoming a devout Catholic, speaks to his love interest Carmen (Teresa Ruiz) about why she should give him a chance. As Carmen talks about not having sex before marriage, Stu comically asks if that’s what confession is for, which garnered a laugh from the audience at the premier.