Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson‘s God Is The Bigger Elvis, one of the nominees for Best Documentary Short Subject, is a congenial, fair-minded portrait of the actress once known as Dolores Hart, who had a pretty good career for a while (costarring in Loving You, Miss Lonelyhearts, King Creole, etc.) until she decided to hang it up and become a nun in 1963. Now 73, she lives in a Benedictine retreat in Connecticut and is called Mother Prioress.
Hart was invited to pursue a higher calling, and I think it’s nice that she chose a nun’s life and stuck to it, and that she seems serene about this. Some of us wind up with jobs that make us happy, and that’s a good thing. But while it’s fine to contemplate a life of such austerity, it’s hard to relate to this. Surely Cammisa and Anderson realize that Mother Prioress might seem, her charitable and kindly manner aside, like a bit of an odd duck from an average viewer’s perspective. Well, not “odd,” really, but curious. Gently and agreeably possessed, so to speak. And so some will find it strange that they chose not to mention that she’s still a member fo the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and that she presumably receives screeners and keeps up with everything. Why hide that?
It’s hard to match the face of Mother Prioress with the one Hart had in the late ’50s and early ’60s — there’s really no resemblance.
The character who makes the film come together emotionally is Hart’s ex-fiance, Don Robinson, who says he was hurt when she told him she was breaking their engagement to join the church, and that he’s been visiting her at the Connecticut residence for 47 years. (This portion of the film was apparently shot in 2010.)
All in all God Is the Bigger Elvis is an intriguing visit. A meditation, in a sense. The fact that I am 100% persuaded that there is no entity as the Catholics imagine God to be (i.e., a cosmic, sentient energy force that comprehends and cares about the moral goings-on on Planet Earth) did not interfere with my interest or concentration.