In Brief: A good natured skewering of human nature and religious hypocrisy.
Yes, God, Yes is set in the early 2000s. Alice is 16. She’s a good girl who attends a good Catholic school. Naturally, Alice is curious about sex. One night she and a boy spend some time alone and rumors start flying that — gasp — Alice and the guy did something sexual.
Not quite sure how the whole sex thing works and how it all come together, Alice starts to experiment with masturbation. On one of those now antiquated teardrop-shaped computers, Alice logs into her AOL account and ends up in a steamy sex conversation with an older guy who wants group sex.
Totally out of her league and ad-libbing answers, Alice has to pretend she’s older than she is and that she knows more than she knows. That leads to a question she has about an unfamiliar sex term she heard during the chat.
Fueled by guilt tossed out in confessional buckets by the her confessor Father Murphy, and to atone for her interest in the boy, the online escapade, her curiosity about the sex term, and her interest in masturbation, Alice decides to attend a special church camp. There she gets turned on by a counselor.
Adding to her adolescent confusion are encounters with some of the leaders of the camp who don’t exactly practice what they preach. While Alice is shocked at what she sees and learns, the girl is a bit of a game player herself and manages to give as good as she gets.
No matter where you stand on the topic of religion, and Christianity in particular, you’ll appreciate the humor of writer/director Karen Maine’s semi-autobiographical but good-natured slam on what I call Churchianity. In “Yes, God, Yes” Maine — who wrote the original story for the critically acclaimed Obvious Child — targets the Catholic Church. However, I think her point is a laugh-packed lambasting of the hypocrisy that exists in the leadership of all religions and that — also — exists in all of us.
From start to finish Maine’s screenplay is flat out hilarious. Helping to sell the concept is a pitch perfect performance from Stranger Thing’s, Natalia Dyer who says the part is somewhat autobiographical for her, too. She manages to plaster a non-stop, wide-eyed, innocent look on her face from the opening scenes to the film’s conclusion. Combined with Maine’s intelligent screenplay, Dyer firmly plants you in the shoes of a 16-year old girl struggling to make sense of her now in full-bloom sexuality.
Ironically, Dyer’s non-expressive look through most of the movie makes her performance very expressive. Her expressionless expressions tell you everything she’s thinking and yet tells you nothing. It’s brilliant work and the non-verbal effort ends up generating more laughs than her actual lines.
She also gets superb support from her co-stars Timothy Simons, Francesca Reale (Stranger Things), Alisha Boe (Poms) and Donna Lynne Champlin (Crazy Ex-Girlfriend) and others, and from Maine’s very funny screenplay.
Some in the church might not get Maine’s message and will be offended. I’m sorry if that’s the case. I don’t believe Maine’s purpose is to offend anyone. It’s to point out that kids at all ages can be, and are, often confused about sex and about adult leaders who often say one thing but do another.
And it’s done in a quite charming way.
As for me, I think God exists. While I’ll avoid a definition as to whether that being is he, she or it, I will add that I think God has a personality and therefore a huge sense of humor. The nature of the universe and — in our case — the nature of human behavior indicates he, she or it spends a lot of time laughing his, her or its butt off at that behavior.
That’s why I think God will laugh as much at Why, God, Why as I did and that you will. And even if you don’t think there is a god, my guess is you’ll end up laughing as well.
Director: Karen Maine
Stars: Natalia Dyer, Timothy Simons, Francesca Reale, Wolfgang Novogratz, Parker Wierling, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe, Donna Lynne Champlin
Director Karen Maine’s film is packed with laughs. It’s negative toward religiosity in a fun and funny way. It seriously doesn’t take itself seriously which — oddly — makes the subject serious. That means I seriously have to give it a 4 1/2 on the Friday Flicks with Gary o to 5 scale.
You can find Yes, God, Yes on a number of streaming sources.
Gary Wolcott has been reviewing movies on radio, television and newspaper since 1990. He believes — and this is an estimate only — that he’s seen something close to 10,000 movies in his lifetime. Gary is a lifelong fan of films and catches a couple of hundred movies a year. He believes movies ought to be seen on the big screen and not on the small screen in your living room or family room. While he loves movies, he also says reviewing film can be a real sacrifice and that he sees many movies so you don’t have to.
He is one of KXL 101.1 FM’s film critics and joined the news staff in 2014. Gary is also the film critic for Tri-Cities, Washington’s Tri-City Herald.