Sigourney Weaver slips into the spiritual skin of a mother who prays her fragile gay son to death.
by Steven Foster
In one of Lifetime Television’s (sadly shortlived) moves to overcome the women-in-peril oeuvre, the network threw its estrogen-laced weight behind the tele-pic Prayers for Bobby, from the book of the same title. Based on the true story of Mary Griffith, whose dedication to the fundamentalist letter of biblical law shoves her son into his own private hell—and subsequent suicide—Prayers sketches a sometimes-brave portrait of the persistent dangers of religious rigidity and the true nature of Christian charity.
Sigourney Weaver dives into the role with refreshing lack of vanity. Mom jeans, middle-America haircut, hardly a sheen of makeup on her expressively angular face, Weaver’s performance is the main reason to watch this flick. The skilled Weaver takes viewers beneath the layers of verse-spouting piety and anti-intellectual suburban subsistence, allowing you to feel this woman’s ache, longing, desperation, and, more importantly, moral and spiritual terror when her faith leaves her with more agonizing questions than easy, pap answers.
It’s a shame director Russell Mulcahy brings little to the tale. None of his earlier panache in storytelling (actually pretty savvy in damn fine videos like Fleetwood Mac’s time-traveling classic “Gypsy”) is on display here. And where some directors are freed creatively by low-budget productions, Mulcahy seems frozen by them. Without the big studio dollars behind such sci-fi slash-and-cash popcorn fodder like the Highlander series, Mulcahy seems sadly adrift. Still, the game cast and solid script resonate with gentle, tender heroism.
Griffith was a woman caged by her convictions and, in the end, liberated by a gospel of tolerance. Deservedly, Weaver and company were awarded GLAAD accolades and multiple nominations in other trophy fests. Her performance lifts this Lifetime pic to an atmosphere the network has claimed to aim for but, sadly, seldom reaches.
A&E Home Entertainment (aetv.com).
Steven Foster is a regular contributor to OutSmart magazine.