For those of you who went to Catholic school and got wrapped on the knuckles by a nun with a leather face, you may want to see Two Popes, for the rest, you NEED to see Two Popes. BTW this is not a story about religion. This is a story about two men with nothing in common who are brought together under extraordinary circumstances to try to find common ground.
Anthony Hopkins is marvelous as the stodgy conservative Pope Benedict while Jonathan Pryce shines as the down to earth Jorge Mario Bergoglio aka Pope Frances. Both turn in Oscar-worthy performances.
The story traces the rise of Bergoglio who cares nothing of the grand pomp and circumstance that lies within the walls of Vatican City. He is a man of simple tastes who is more at home on the streets of his native Buenos Aires. While Pope Benedict relishes tradition as well as upholding the ‘royal’ position of being the holy pope, he struggles with the changing desires of his parishioners and the scandals within the church. In the midst of his struggle is a secret. BTW the story is based on truth, but the conversations are imagined.
There’s a lovely moment in the film where Pope Benedict (Hopkins) lets down his papal facade and plays a tune on the piano—(that’s really Hopkins tinkling the ivories and the piece he is playing was a little something he composed, much to the surprise of the film’s director.)
The screenplay, written by Anthony McCarten is strong and smart. McCarten first wrote the story as a play called The Pope and adapted it along with director (round of applause) Fernando Meirelles for the screen. The direction is terrific as is the production design by Mark Tildesley and the art direction by Saverio Sammali. These two men recreated the interiors of Vatican City—for that alone they deserve an award. Applause also to the numerous artists hired to duplicate the Sistine Chapel, as well as to the special effects team who had me believing I was looking at the real interiors of the Vatican. For the record, the producers did try to book the Papal Palace for the shoot, and they got a flat ‘no.’
At a time in our culture where derision and disparity reign supreme, this story is a welcoming tale of how two disparate personalities can meet somewhere in the middle and find harmony, forgiveness, and friendship.
Grab a glass of sacramental cabernet and a eucharist cracker and enjoy the Two Popes.
Two Popes is in theaters now and will premiere on Netflix on December 20th.