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04/10/2015 10:48 pm ET Updated Jun 10, 2015

Popcorn Preview: Dial a Prayer

Dial a Prayer (2015)
Cast includes: Brittany Snow (Pitch Perfect), William H. Macy (Shameless), Tom Lipinski (Labor Day), Glenne Headly (Don Jon), Aral Gribble (Loading Zone)
Writer/Director: Maggie Kiley (Brightest Star)
Genre: Comedy | Drama (97 minutes)

With "Lead Me Gently Home" playing on the sound track, we hear a mellow voice saying, "With God, all things are possible." We realize we're looking at a phone bank with about a dozen mellow-voiced counselors talking to callers. On the other hand... "Dial A Prayer. How may I pray for you?" says Cora... without a molecule of conviction. As we soon learn, it's Cora's first day, and frankly, she need a lot of training. "Daily Devotional is offering a free trial." "It's another record week at Dial A Prayer," supervisor Bill announces over iced lemon cake. Yum! "The work you do redeems you with the Lord. You're serving the master... God, not me!" Oh, Bill's such a joker at times! Dial A Prayer is going to be extra busy with all the holiday needs coming up. But Bill knows they'll be up to the challenge. What he really wants to know about is Cora's serve. Serve? "Volleyball. If you can answer the call, you'd better join the league."

At 4:00 sharp, Cora is out the door... but not so fast. Bill catches up and gives her the company T-shirt. Cora is creeped out by the whole place. Days later when sneaking out back for a cig break, she encounters a young man who's been looking for her. "You're the one I spoke to. I'm Chase..." as if Cora is supposed to remember everyone she prays for. Apparently, Cora helped him find his way. However, it's obviously Cora who needs navigation, because she's just going through the motions. In flashbacks, we begin to see that Cora isn't working at Dial A Prayer by choice. She's doing time for that church vandalism incident that went terribly wrong. "We're allowing you to repent." How long is she going to have to work with "those freaks?" she wonders. "Don't think you can just go through the motions and get away with it," Bill warns her. After some soul searching, Cora decides to put some effort into her job. "Everyday is a new beginning."

Dial a Prayer is the second feature film by writer/director, Maggie Kiley. It's an enjoyable hour and a half; even though Cora, the central character, seems to mope through life... always as dreary as the interminable Michigan winter. Although the film feels highly independent, the script was good enough to bring in actor William H. Macy, who does an excellent job as Bill, the sometimes unnaturally chipper supervisor. Obviously, the world of a prayer phone bank provides abundant opportunity for either cynicism or sermonizing, but the film avoids both... which could be a disappointment for audiences who are hoping for either of those points of view. As the plot thickens, we see that Cora existence in this world touches others, even though she seems to feel nothing she does matters. "Nothing is impossible with God," says Bill. "Maybe believing it's working is enough." The script capitalizes on virtually every religious slogan there is, but perhaps a woman who doesn't work at Dial A Prayer sums it up best... "It's ok. I'm ok. It's all ok."

2 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
A young woman serves time for a crime by answering phones at a prayer phone bank

Popcorn Profile
Rated: PG-13
Audience: Young Adults
Gender Style: Neutral
Distribution: Art House & Video
Mood: Sober
Tempo: In No Hurry
Visual Style: Unvarnished Realism
Nutshell: Prayer phone bank
Language: True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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