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Featured TV on DVD Review: Prayers for Bobby

December 26th, 2010

Prayers for Bobby - Buy from Amazon

Early last year, Prayers for Bobby aired on the Lifetime network, which is a network that has had a mixed record when it comes to original TV movies. On the other hand, this film earned several major nominations, including two Emmys and a Golden Globe, mostly for Sigourney Weaver's performance. Is that the film's only strong point?

The Movie

The film starts in 1979 as we see a happy family getting together for their grandmother's birthday. Her daughter, Mary, is there with her husband, Robert, plus their four kids, Bobby, Ed, Joy, and Nancy. The grandmother is a less than diplomatic woman, saying all gays should be killed, and then insulting her granddaughter, Joy, who committed the sin of buying her something for her birthday. Bobby comforts her and she comments that everyone thinks he's perfect. Well, he has a secret. He's gay. He's gay, and his family is a very conservative Christian one. He's extremely worried about how his family will react.

When Bobby confides in his brother, his brother tells his Mom, and she reacts just as badly as he had feared. She's convinced she can pray the gay away, while the Father is taking the "It's just a phase." approach. The family learns to accept him, mostly, but his mother's constant attempts to cure him are too much and he moves away to Oregon. There he finds a more accepting community, but the shame that had been pounded into him is too much, and he takes his life.

From there the film switches to following the family, mostly Mary, as she tries to reconcile her religious beliefs with her love for her son. She can't accept her son won't be with the rest of the family in heaven, so she looks for answers, first with a more gay-friendly church, then connecting with others who had a similar experience, and finally becoming a gay rights activist.

There are parts of this movie that really emphasize that it's a TV movie, and that's not a compliment. There are parts, especially early on, that are a little on the cheesy side. However, when the film switches focus from Mary's attempts to cure Bobby to Mary's emotional journey, it really allows Sigourney Weaver to shine as an actress. That's not to insult the other actors and there are many excellent performances, but this is Sigourney's film.

The overall effect means the film gets off to a slightly shaky start, but by the end it clearly deserves the accolades it earned.

The Extras

There are a number of extras on the DVD, mostly in the form of short featurettes on various subjects from the real Mary Griffith, adapting the book, the cast, etc. There are also a couple PSAs.

The Verdict

Prayers for Bobby gets off to a bit of a shaky start with some movie of the week pacing, but once it hits its stride it is an amazingly emotional film. The DVD has only a couple extras, but it's enough to be a solid rental, leaning toward a purchase.

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