Let’s imagine you see a mangy man walking down the side of the highway. His hair is greasy, the length of his beard is the envy of the Boston White Sox (but not long enough to be a member of the “Duck Dynasty”), and one could guess he’s trying to rejoin the rest of his Manson family.
Do you stop to talk to him?
Of course not! I’m not crazy?
Now, what if I tell you this greasy hippie is dragging a large white cross as he trudges onward? Does your answer change?
You paused. You’re going to hell.
If the people in profiled in this movie have their prophesy fulfilled, they’re going to be a pretty lonely bunch up there.
If I were to describe Good People Go To Hell, Saved People Go To Heaven with a logline, it would be that this movie is a cross between Michael Moore’s Roger & Me and Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, the virus in this case is the God Virus.
Director Holly Hardman has the rare talent Michael Moore displayed in his début movie (before he made himself the star of his subsequent documentaries), that of having the patience to let the subjects speak long enough without interference. Eventually these people will say something ridiculous without realizing it, revealing their true selves.
The movie begins with a clever juxtaposition of definitions distinguishing the words “rapture” and “The Rapture.” It turns out they’re antonyms.
The first Heaven-bound person we meet is Lance Rowe, the Greasy Jesus in the photo. He believes the Lord has called him to evangelize to the United States by schlepping a burdensome white wooden cross up and down the length of the Mississippi River. By the way, Lance has left behind his family to live in a trailer packed with outdated computer equipment while goes on his trek.
After we meet Lance, we meet Jillian, who was putting an addition on her home to accommodate her expanding brood when Hurricane Katrina destroyed everything. Jillian’s faith is unshaken, unlike her house. In her mind, God sent the hurricane, but rather than interpreting it as a message to stop breeding, she sees the hurricane as birth contractions for the impending Rapture.
Mitsi is a former drug addict who was saved, and believes her second son Trey was saved at age four. Despite his being an evangelical prodigy, it is her firstborn, Aaron, who is her favorite. He became saved at a later age, but when he did, he heard the message that he was to be God’s Idol -a reference to American Idol, not idolatry. God may have saved him from appearing on that show by not imbuing him with any singing talent.
Aaron is infected by the God Virus thoroughly, and utters my favorite line in the movie when he explains the Rapture:
“It’s on the internet. It’s documented when he gave that prophecy.”
My second favorite line in the movie is from the pastor of Glad Tidings Church whose day job is as a contractor,
Lest you think I’m giving away spoilers, he later utters a despicable homophobic comment that made me wonder why he would describe himself as “bi-” anything.
There are many more inane moments in this movie. This is exactly the kind of treat one hopes to discover at film festivals- highly recommended.
SLIFF Screening: Tuesday, November 19th, 7:15 pm. Landmark Tivoli. Director Holly Hardman will be in attendance.