One Good Man... at the Movies

One Good Man is pleasant, but far removed from a serious comment about life in LDS families today.

Final Grade: B-

Additional Notes and Comments:

(1) It's arguable that One Good Man has the wrong lead character - and, in fact, I'm going to argue it.

The one plot point mentioned above with some real drama behind it involves Aaron being given a task by his boss to downsize, and he's forced to lay off many of his workers. One of the unfortunate layoff victims is a guy named Doug Fisher, who is also a member of Aaron's ward.  He's just had a baby (his fourth) when Aaron lets him know he's being laid off. Stunned, Doug asks what he did wrong and how it is that he (Aaron, his bishop) can do such a thing to his family, especially now.

Later, Aaron meets with Doug and his wife, this time as bishop, although as you might expect, it's a little awkward. Aaron, after all, still has his job and although he protests that he did everything he could, there's no real way for Doug to know that, is there? From Doug's perspective, here's a guy who says he's trying to help after being the one who laid him off in the first place. It's no surprise it comes off as a little hollow.

Doug seems to be "One Good Man" too, trying to take care of his family as best he can. Suddenly, life becomes a big struggle, and he and his wife's church activity start to wane. Wouldn't it seem like God has abandoned them? Shouldn't there be more "blessings" in his life after living the commandments and doing what is right for so long?  How are they supposed to really trust this bishop of theirs again, anyway?  Will they find their way back into full church activity again?

All of the above elements are taken directly from a sub-plot of One Good Man. Doesn't it naturally seem like Doug's story is much more interesting than Aaron's?

Why not make Doug the main character of One Good Man? Certainly his story has more inherent drama in it, where Doug struggles with supporting his family, and with these new challenges to his testimony.  If it were me, I'd have rewritten it with the focus of the film on Doug, with Aaron for a supporting character: someone who tries to help, but his very presence reminds Doug of how much better things have worked out for Aaron rather than himself.   This wouldn't even be that "edgy" a direction for an LDS film, but one certainly with a lot more dramatic potential.

(2) A related idea - obviously there are conflicts of interest when you work with someone in your ward, especially with the bishop/boss relationship.  If someone is forced to do layoffs, would he take into account the fact that certain workers are members of his own church, in his own congregation, when deciding who goes and who stays?  Would it be defensible if he went a little easier on people he knew and associated with?  Would it be defensible to consider whether the employee had a family to support when making layoff decisions?  There are a lot of gray areas here in terms of ethics that could be explored in a different film...

(3) Recently AWOL "Queen of Mormon Cinema" candidate Heather Beers (Charly, Baptists at our Barbecue) has a thirty-second cameo.

(4) Salt Lake City appears to have an NFL team now in Vuissa's alternate universe. Unless I heard incorrectly, a co-worker who tempts Aaron with Monday Night Football instead of Family Home Evening specifically talks about "going" to the game, not "watching" the game.  (And says later, "You should have gone.")  I'm assuming he's not driving to Denver and back...

(5) The previews indicate Vuissa has a Joseph Smith film in the works for 2010.  One can be hopeful, but I think it's probably safe to assume it will be as "spherical" as this one...

Kevin Burtt is a father and software engineer, and blogs at

10/26/2009 4:00:00 AM
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