This review originally ran as part of our 2022 Sundance Film Festival coverage. The film is finally opening this Friday, September 2.
Adamma and Adanne Ebo’s Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul. is a riotous skewering of Southern megachurch culture in all its excesses, exploitations, and contradictions. Shot in a Guestian mockumentary style, the film switches between hilarious vignettes and high-emotion scenes, and at its center is a banner performance from Regina Hall, who believably hits the movie’s odd beats.
Hall embodies Trinitie Childs, the flustered first lady of Georgia's "Wander to Greater Pathways" megachurch. She wants to get her life back on track after a scandal causes a mass exodus of congregants, forcing the church to close down temporarily. See, word got out that young men accused her God-fearin’, self-involved pastor-husband Lee-Curtis (a pitch-perfect Sterling K. Brown) of sexual misconduct. And in an ill-advised attempt to stage their comeback, the cursed couple invites a documentary crew to follow them as they prepare for the church's first Sunday back.
Predictably, things go south.
The fictional documentarians are more interested in the very Christian contradictions the Childs personify—their Prada suits, frivolously expensive church hats, and several sexed-up cars. There’s an enormous gaudy fountain inside their church, in front of which Trinitie and Lee-Curtis do a Charlie’s-Angels-style shoot. In one scene set outside their church, former congregants dress Trinitie down on camera for standing by her man. Most of them have all absconded to a rival church run by a young couple (played delightfully by Nicole Beharie and Conphidance). In another scene, despite their prim image, Trinitie and Lee-Curtis bump Crime Mob’s fight-hymn “Knuck If You Buck,” reciting each verse with devoted earnestness. It’s hilarious.
Throughout it all, Hall plays Trinitie with ridiculous desperation. A gifted comic and dramatic actress, Hall gives believable heft to silly lines. “Have you ever seen a rat go from the inside of the house to the outside of a house? They chew through. So we are going to gnaw through the hardest parts,” she says in an absolute bimbo reflection on the scandal. And behind her megawatt smile and shiny hair, Trinitie’s eyes are pure panic. She often tries to tell the crew to cut. They don't.