CFS suggests “Stolen Summer” to warm your winter

Matthew Daniels

This weekend Villanova’s Cultural Film and Lecture Series kicks off its spring line-up with a new series, “Struggles of the Spirit.” The first film is the 2002 drama “Stolen Summer,” starring Aidan Quinn, Kevin Pollack and Bonnie Hunt. The film was written and directed by Pete Jones, the winner of the first reality screenwriting contest, “Project Greenlight.”

“Project Greenlight” was a reality-based television show created by Chris Moore, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck. It ran on HBO during the summer of 2002 and documented the entire shooting of “Stolen Summer.” The show allowed viewers a glimpse into the real nature of Hollywood. It documented fights among actors, executives whose emphasis on profit led them to disregard artistic creativity and an out-of-place screenwriter, whose shift to director status appeared too much for him to handle. These real-life theatrics gave film junkies and gossip-hungry voyeurs of the world a reason to salivate.

“Stolen Summer” marks the final product in the first “Project Greenlight” process and is a coming-of-age story about Peter O’Malley, an eight-year-old growing up in Chicago during the summer of 1976.

The film adapts Peter’s youthful and innocent perspectives as he seeks to understand the meanings and teachings behind Catholicism. Peter struggles with one theme in particular when a nun lectures him about the importance of following God and avoiding the pitfalls of the Devil. Peter interprets her message to mean that without the guiding light of Catholicism a person is doomed to Hell.

Peter takes it upon himself to save his new best friend, Danny (coincidentally a son of a rabbi), who is also battling cancer. Thus, Peter embarks on a “Decathlon of Heaven” where he compiles ten good deeds to guarantee that Danny will reach the Promised Land.

“Stolen Summer” delves into several issues regarding class, organized religion and spirituality. Peter’s father, Joe (Aidan Quinn), a hard-nosed fireman, and mother, Margaret (Bonnie Hunt), a proud and loving disciplinarian, embody the romanticized cinematic portrait of many Irish-Americans.

The other major adult character in the film is Danny’s father, Rabbi Jacobson (Kevin Pollack), whose spirituality and beliefs allow him to subtly play the Devil’s advocate (not literally), as he challenges Peter’s blind faith.

Peter’s “Struggle of the Spirit” ends in a transformation when he discovers that the morality encompassed by love, respect and friendship can even transcend religion. This message may seem trite to the cynical or cinematically disillusioned, but the film packs a feel good punch with genuine heart to boot. “Stolen Summer” is a sentimental gem of the finest degree.

“Stolen Summer” will be screened four times in the Connelly Center Cinema: Saturday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m., Sunday, Jan. 29 at 3:30 and 7 p.m., and Monday, Jan. 29, at 7 p.m. Admission is $3.50 for students with ID and $5 for everyone else. The Monday showing only will feature guest speaker Steve McWilliams, who will provide an intro to the film and lead a discussion afterward.

For more information, please call X9-4750 on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., or consult the CFS web site: www.