The Third Miracle Review
By Christopher Null
In the immortal words of singer Fats Waller, "I believe in miracles...." Who else is a believer? Agnieszka Holland, best known for poetic period pieces like Washington Square and trite garbage like Total Eclipse, who finally ventures into the modern era (or reasonably modern: 1979) with The Third Miracle.
Based on the poorly-received novel of the same name, The Third Miracle follows a down-and-out drunk of a priest named Frank Shore (Harris), on his assignment to debunk (or bunk) a claim of sainthood regarding a Chicago woman named Helen. The main case for sainthood? A young girl who prayed to the woman has been cured of lupus. Now the statue where that girl prayed is crying Helen's Type-A human blood. People are flocking from around the nation.
Shore, a man of lost faith who lives in a tenement building, is called back to active service thanks to a perfect record of finding fault with every saint applicant that crosses his path. During his investigation, he reexamines that faith, spars with an archrival Archbishop (Mueller-Stahl), has a very unlikely and unbelievable fling with Helen's daughter (Heche), and generally becomes an all-around good guy.
The film, on the whole, is intriguing and keeps your interest throughout. It's hardly a laugh riot: This is serious stuff, and oftentimes it's a damnation of Catholicism. It's Dogma, but with feeling. But the film's self-importance and rambling, often-lost narrative (a perpetual problem in Holland's work) robs it of its luster. For religion buffs, it's a must-see. For the typical moviegoer, it's a toss-up.
One question by way of spoiler (quit reading now if you intend to see the film): What's the deal with the title? Catholic tradition requires three miracles for sainthood, and Helen languishes with a mere two. At the film's end, Anne Heche shows up with a newborn daughter. A more cynical critic might point out that that would be a miracle indeed.
Pray for them.
Facts and Figures
In Theaters: Thursday 20th April 2000
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment
Production compaines: American Zoetrope, Haft Entertainment, Franchise Pictures
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 67%
Fresh: 22 Rotten: 11
Cast & Crew