Trinitie Childs (Regina Hall) has that look in her eyes, a look that’s masking a lot of pain for the greater good. Or, at least, that’s what she tells herself. Her husband, Lee-Curtis Childs (Sterling K. Brown), is the pastor of the Southern Baptist megachurch, Wander to Greater Paths, and in their halcyon days, they attracted tens of thousands, made twice as much, and became the faces of their community. Not quite sure how the Childs managed to pay for their luxurious lifestyle without dipping their fingers into the collection plate at least once, but that’s not the scandal the Childs are trying to recover from. Nope, the scandal here is of the hanky-panky kind, and though Trinitie considered divorcing Lee-Curtis because of it, she’d “just as soon kill ’em as I would leave ’em.”
I’ll leave the details of Lee-Curtis’ philandering ways to Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., the debut from the Ebo twins (Adamma writes and directs and Adanne produces), the feature-length adaptation of their 2019 short.
Using a mockumentary structure to plunge the audience in, Honk for Jesus follows the Childs sometime after Lee-Curtis’ scandal. Wander to Greater Paths closed its doors for an appropriate amount of time, but now they are ready to remerge into the community—on Easter, no less—and Lee-Curtis is delusional enough to think that the camera crew following him is only interested in their new testament. Trinitie probably suspects otherwise, but it’s not the only thing she’s trying to turn a blind eye to.
To that effect, Honk for Jesus works because Brown and Hall are hilarious. Both commit one hundred percent and deliver performances full of ticks and tiny mannerisms that land with precision. Adamma Ebo’s script excoriates megachurches, false faith, the many layers of infidelity, and all the self-hatred that comes with it. It’s a riot, and then suddenly, she drops a second movie into this one.
While most of what we see is from the perspective of the documentary crew—shot in 1:85—Honk for Jesus also contains several scenes where the camera crew is not present. These scenes are shot in 2:35 and filmed like a standard fiction narrative. They allow us access to information the documentary crew would not be privy to—Lee-Curtis’ bedroom behavior, mostly—but they don’t add enough to warrant the break in perspective. Instead, they feel more like a distraction, particularly in the movie’s climax, which shifts back and forth between the documentary crew filming Lee-Curtis and Trinitie, and the “movie” watching the crew filming Lee-Curtis and Trinitie. That might make Honk For Jesus sound like it’s driving in Symbiopsychotaxiplasm’s lane, but it’s not. But Brown and Hall are outstanding. They’re worth the price of admission alone.
Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. (2022)
Written and directed by Adamma Ebo
Produced by Jessamine Burgum, Matthew R. Cooper, Amandla Crichlow, Kara Durrett, Adanne Ebo, Daniel Kaluuya, Rowan Riley
Starring: Regina Hall, Sterling K. Brown, Nicole Beharie, Conphidance
Pinky Promise, Not yet rated, Running time 102 minutes, Premiered at the virtual Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 23, 2022.