It's always a pity when a deserving independent film barely gets any notice, and a big moronic blockbuster makes millions upon millions. I hadn't heard much about Into Temptation, but the major cast names quickly caught my attention: Jeremy Sisto and Kristin Chenoweth? I'm in. And Chenoweth plays a call girl too. That sweet Christian woman is really starting to court controversy with her film choices. This is a touching and introspective film about faith, hope, and choice.
Sisto plays the main character, Father John Buerlein, a Catholic priest who is getting a little weary with the routine of his life. He speaks his sermons calmly and without much passion, and he is just sleepwalking through life. Then a beautiful call girl named Linda (Chenoweth) appears in his confessional and tells him she plans to kill herself on her upcoming birthday. She shocks him with tales of being raped at age twelve and about her life now, and then leaves before he is capable of absolving her or even trying to help. She haunts Father John, and he becomes determined to look for this mysterious woman so he can save her.
Father John is dragged into the prostitution and underground world in an effort to find Linda before she kills herself. Meanwhile his only love, a woman who left him before he became a priest, comes back into town and seems interested in shaking his dedication to the priesthood. Is Father John cut out for this line of work? The film is about who can be saved, and a restoration of faith for a man who should probably have more faith to begin with. It becomes about a clock ticking down to when Linda gives up and kills herself, and whether or not Father John is even capable of talking her down in the first place. He's holding a great deal of guilt inside him for not talking to her when she stepped into his booth. He had a chance to absolve her and talk it out, but he froze. Another interesting point is that we find Linda and John had met before once upon a time, and there might have been a real reason for her confessing to him. The ending is left ambiguous, and this works remarkably well for the tragic story. Sometimes there just are no easy answers.
This is a quiet and thoughtful film, and Jeremy Sisto really does a beautiful job as the conflicted Father John. It's a little surprising how well Father John does in the dark world, and that no one suspected him of being a cop first. Sisto really sells this character as one having a midlife crisis of sorts, tempted by his former lover and the uncomfortable sexuality he sees while searching for Linda. Chenoweth is great in the few scenes she actually has, and her confrontation of her stepfather is a very emotional scene. I wish there was more about her in the film, or perhaps a flash of seeing her working since everyone swears she's so good. In some ways Linda is supposed to be as intangible to us as she is to Father John, so the few glimpses we get are enough. Brian Baumgartner (Kevin from The Office) guest stars as Father John's fellow priest and good friend. He seems more at ease with his position and less willing to take chances on anyone.
The DVD has no extras, which is a shame. This is a movie that would benefit from a commentary, and to hear the thought process of the director and/or the actors. Into Temptation is in many ways about a white knight trying to save a nameless damsel, but placed into the gritty world of poor churches and listless prostitutes. Well written and acted, it occasionally gets sleepy in the middle and the ex-girlfriend story could probably be taken out altogether, but overall it's worth watching. The film is rated R for language and sexual content, and it is out on DVD now.