The "Hallmark Hall of Fame" original movies have been a staple of TV viewing for many years now. In the recent past they aired on CBS but this year they have transferred to ABC. Fortunately for viewers the change of stations did not include a decrease in quality. Their new production of Mitch Albom's book Have A Little Faith is one of their best productions ever.
This movie has an engrossing story, true emotional impact, and some of the best performances seen on TV this year. Bradley Whitford plays Albom. Martin Landau is his rabbi. Laurence Fishburne is the pastor he discovers. These three actors seem to be on some kind of spiritual mission to bring these roles to life and they reach into their souls to do it. In doing so they reach out of the film and touch the hearts of all who watch.
Mitch Albom is a man who seems destined to encounter greatness in his life. He found it with a man named Morrie who he captured in his book Tuesdays With Morrie, and he has done it again in his encounters with Rabbi Albert Lewis (Landau) and Pastor Henry Covington (Fishburne). Albom immortalized their stories in his book Have a Little Faith.
The movie adaptation tells the story of Rabbi Lewis' impact on Albom's life. He is the rabbi at the synagogue Albom attended as a child. As Albom got older he drifted away from his religion but Lewis never forgot him. One day when Albom is in his home town for a book signing, Lewis asks him to perform his eulogy when he dies. Taken aback, Albom initially dismisses the request but later begins to visit Lewis to learn more about the man and his faith.
At the same time the viewer is being shown this story, a parallel one is taking place. The viewer sees Henry Covington's life as he goes from being an impressionable young boy to a violent adult. He descends into the worst areas of drug use and abuse.
These two stories come together through Albom, who is connected to both men. And as the stories are being told the audience is drawn deeper and deeper into the context of all three lives. It is a dramatic experience and an emotional one.
Whitford, Fishburne and Landau are amazing in their roles. Landau's performance is a career topper, while Fishburne shows facets of his talents that have not been seen before. Whitford displays an earnest eagerness to show Albom to be a good man, but not a saint. It should be noted that the women who play the wives are also special. This includes Melinda McGraw as Albom's wife Janine, Deanna Dunagan as the Rabbi's wife Sarah, and Anika Noni Rose as Henry's wife Annette.
All involved with this production are at the top of their game, especially director Jon Avet. He shepherds the story and the actors in just the right direction. There is not one extraneous scene or a non-essential word of dialogue.
Have A Little Faith is a heart-warming movie for the family to watch together. It is a fine example of the caliber of productions the Hallmark Hall of Fame offers. They may have changed networks but the beauty of the stories, the strength of the acting, and the overall magnificence of the productions are still intact.
Have A Little Faith airs on ABC, Sunday November 27 at 9PM.
Jackie K Cooper
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