I watched a GREAT movie this week: “Leap of Faith” starring Steve Martin. This film was made in 1992, and along with Steve Martin you get to see a younger Liam Neeson and also Debra Winger. And if you are paying attention, you will also find a very young Philip Seymour Hoffman.
If you casually watch the story unfold, you might miss a lot. Steve Martin stars as Jonas Nightengale, a slick faith healer/con man who is a great user of technology (especially for 1992)! While the character’s actions may set off some, the real story comes from Jonas’ transformation from slick con-man to a true believer in the power derived from faith in God.
The main character travels from town to town, pitching his tent and offering a “real show.” Gospels singers, flash and smoke, and the main product: hope. It is easy to prey on the weak and the suffering, and you may begin to feel a bit slimy as the “show” unfolds…and the buckets get passed across the aisles in the tent, throughout the show.
The business of faith-healing often carries a whiff of insincerity. While small miracles happen every day around us, it’s a bit hard to swallow the idea that people can take that leap of faith by getting up on stage and be healed immediately on the spot.
But I must say, Leap of Faith is a real treasure, often overlooked when considering great movies of that decade. It’s also worth mentioning this was one Steve Martin’s earliest dramatic roles. Even though Martin comes off as a real character, a real master showman, and perhaps a real con-man… the real message is in what happens to him.
The turning point in the film is where the Sheriff in town (Liam Neeson) stops the show and informs the audience about Jonas Nightengale’s past. While he is cast as a scammer, Martin turns the situation around to ask, if you are trying to stop being a cheat, why not not talk to someone who was been there and done that? Without giving the entire story away, I urge you to pay attention to this powerful scene.
After the movie ended, the two messages I felt were, “who am I, to judge someone?” and “it is never too late to turn your life to the Lord.” Leap of faith is a great story… although the original framework of the story may be upsetting or distasteful (taking advantage of others), I believe Leap of Faith sends a very good message to us all.