Novitiate

This story is about a rural girl in the ‘50s who isn’t raised in one religion, but her father leaving and bad homelife, gets her gravitating towards the Catholic church. Once Cathleen, played by Margaret Qualley, the model/daughter of Andie MacDowell, is rather shy. She doesn’t have the best relationship with her mom (an overacting Julianne Nicholson), ,so taking a scholarship to a Catholic school and then heading to a convent — where she’ll be a novitiate to become a nun.

One nun is sweet (Dianna Agron of Glee); but Mother Superior seems to be channeling Joan Crawford (in Mommie Dearest). Melissa Leo will surely get on Oscar nomination for this performance, and there are some scenes she’s terrific in. Her facial expressions, and her voice…just perfect. A few times, it felt campy and didn’t work. Perhaps the fact that, as sadistic as she is, it’s not as powerful when you’ve seen so many movies with a character like this. Whether that’s a drill sergeant, coach, or parent. Been there/done that.

Vatican II wants some Latin rites written in English, and a few other more modern things (one of which surprised the hell out of my wife and I, involving nuns becoming just like regular parishioners).

The film is shot nicely by cinematographer Kat Westergaard, but first-time director/writer Margaret Betts doesn’t give us enough. Too many of the scenes are slow (the entire film is over two hours). Just throwing a moral dilemma into the mix (Mother Superior being told to lighten up, and other changes the Vatican wants instituted).

You’d have to be someone that’s seriously interested in the Catholic faith to appreciate this story, and even then, you might get bored. If you want to see it, it’s only going to be at the (appropriately named) Angelika Film Center the rest of the week.

1 ½ stars out of 5.