Of all the movies that have been produced in the current local LDS filmmaking movement, "The Work and the Glory" certainly looks the best and appears to be the most accomplished.
Credit for much of that should go to veteran local cinematographer T.C. Christensen and his crew, whose wondrous photography not only makes the film look terrific but also acts as the film's best asset.
But with improved production values also come high expectations, especially in terms of storytelling. So when the plotting and a few of the performances are just so-so, it's hard not to think of the film as at least a bit of a disappointment.
Though it bears the title of the book's entire series, "The Work and the Glory" film is actually based on the first volume in that series, which is subtitled "Pillar of Light." Written by LDS Church general authority Gerald N. Lund, the best-selling novel's weave fictional stories around real-life LDS Church history.
This film the first of a projected series of nine is set in the 1820s and is told from the perspective of the Steeds, a family of farmers who move from Vermont to Palmyra, N.Y.
There, the two oldest sons, Joshua and Nathan (Eric Johnson and Alexander Carroll), squabble over the affections of Lydia McBride (Tiffany Dupont), the daughter of a wealthy local resident.
They also come to blows over one of the workers hired by their father to help clear their land, Joseph Smith (Jonathan Scarfe). While Nathan believes Joseph's seemingly wild claims about angelic visitations, Joshua joins with other townspeople who have shunned Joseph and his family.
Screenwriter/director Russ Holt has clearly had to leave a lot of material out in adapting "Pillar of Light." Condensing Lund's 400-plus-page novel to an under-two-hours movie has left an episodic feel, and the pacing is a little jumpy and disjointed.
Also, the main story line about Joshua and Nathan's rivalry over Lydia comes off as the least interesting, and it's resolved much too easily and without much emotion. And neither Carroll nor Dupont really has the presence to command audience attention. They're good-looking but also sort of bland.
By comparison, the subplot involving Joseph Smith and his attempts to start what would become the LDS Church is much more compelling and watchable. A lot of that has to do with the performance by Scarfe, who definitely has big-screen presence.
And so do veteran television actors Sam Hennings and Brenda Strong (who narrates ABC's "Desperate Housewives"), playing the Steed parents.
"The Work and the Glory" is rated PG for a couple of scenes of violence (a scuffle and a beating), as well as some vulgar moments involving bodily functions (belching). Running time: 108 minutes.
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