and 60-second review
Nice review, Darrell. FWIW, I liked the idea
of Melville's struggle ... it was the absence of any creative or psychological insight beyond "I have a struggle" that turned me off.
In a way it’s like the antithesis of a Dan Brown novel. Brown’s stories peer with feverish, lurid imagination at the inner workings of the Catholic hierarchy, discovering all manner of ridiculous subterfuge, ruthlessness and skulduggery. Moretti’s film hardly peers at all. It’s good-natured and inoffensive, regarding the cardinals with gentle amusement. But there’s no complexity or ambiguity, no depth or insight. ...
It’s impossible not to feel empathy for the plight of the hapless cardinal catapulted into a position of incalculable responsibility for which he feels wholly inadequate. Yet as his initial panic fades and his paralysis stretches to minutes, hours, days and weeks, it becomes equally impossible not to feel increasingly frustrated with the new pope’s apparent lack of empathy for the plight into which his mulish immobility has plunged his colleagues, the throngs of pilgrims stranded in St. Peter’s Square, and the entire Catholic world. ...
Melville’s faith is wholly theoretical, along with every other character (not counting the anonymous throngs in St. Peter’s Square). Those “Not me” prayers are the only signs of prayer we see from any of the cardinals: They’re never seen saying or attending Mass, or praying their daily office. (We do see the AWOL pope listening to a homily at a weekday Mass — the only congregant, apparently.) No one prays during the conclave for guidance regarding the selection of the successor to Peter, or for God’s will to be done. Contemplating their votes, they look more like schoolboys enduring a difficult test than princes of the Church fulfilling a sacred trust. ...
If the pope doesn’t question his faith, it’s because he doesn’t question anything. His whole world seems made up of self-evident, unassailable, brute facts: I’m the pope. God called me. I can’t do it. I need more time. I’ve always loved theater. I’m tired. Piccoli brings as much warmth and sympathy as possible to what eventually becomes, in spite of his efforts, an off-putting character.
Melville’s insistence that he needs more time is unconflicted by any sense of urgency for the plight of the world. He does seem troubled by the crowds in St. Peter’s Square, but is unmoved to action, or even to awareness that he ought to act. Although he meets with nothing but kindness from strangers on the streets of Rome, he has startling outbursts of anger.