Posts Tagged ‘“Novitiate”’

Margaret Qually

“NOVITIATE” My rating: B 

123 minutes | MPAA rating: R

The movies rarely treat religion with anything like respect or even intelligent understanding.  Which makes “Novitiate” a welcome anomaly.

Writer/director Margaret Betts’ film — made with a predominantly female cast and crew — is a serious attempt to examine a religious vocation through the eyes of one young woman.

Cathleen (Margaret Qually…she played the daughter in HBO’s “The Leftovers”) is raised by her hard-case mother in the American South during the 1950s.  Mom Nora (Juliette Nicholson) is a drinkin’, smoking’ modern woman with a tart tongue and a disdain for much of Eisenhower-era society.

But she’s devoted to her daughter and one Sunday takes Cathleen to the local Catholic church. Though irreligious herself, Nora wants her child to be able to make up her own mind. Almost against her better judgment, she accepts a free scholarship for Cathleen at the local parochial school.

The girl takes to Catholicism like other teens glom onto Rod McKuen’s poetry.  As graduation nears she announces that she wants to become a nun. Mom is horrified, but what are you gonna do?

And so Cathleen becomes a postulant at a cloistered community run by the hard-ass Reverend Mother (Melissa Leo), who hasn’t left the premises in 40 years.

Revered Mother — the spiritual version of a Marine drill instructor — makes no bones about her intentions to weed out the unworthy.  Her methods are often brusque and borderline cruel, and part of the wonder of Leo’s performance is that the character’s ogreish behavior is, if not likable, then at least understandable. It’s a long-tested system to which she adheres. (more…)

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