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The Independent Critic

Patton Oswalt, Mary Faber, Jason Genao, Kevin Broberg, Noelle Renee Bercy, Malcolm Madera, Ginger Gonzaga
Michael Vukadinovich
17 Mins.

 "The Priest" Screens at Indy Shorts  

There are a lot of reasons I love Patton Oswalt. 

There are a lot of reasons why I follow Patton Oswalt on Twitter. 

He's funny. He's serious. He's intelligent. He's talented. He's politically outspoken in a direct but non-abusive way. 

My knowledge of Oswalt likely only skims the surface, but his life seems to be this weirdly transcendent tapestry of absurd comedy meets unfathomable tragedy meets rich humanity meets surviving it all. 

Oswalt brings all of these glorious qualities together as one with Father Shauna, a burned out and suicidal priest serving in a lonely desert town who makes one impulsive decision that kicks off a series of increasingly strange and comedic events leading to a most unexpected discovery. 

Coincidence? Perhaps. 

Miraculous? There's a little miraculous in all of life. 

Oswalt has always been an under-appreciated dramatic actor, infusing characters such as Young Adult's Matt Freehauf and A.P. Bio's Principal Durbin with more than just laughs without ever compromising those valued laughs. Oswalt has a gift for finding the humanity of any character he plays, simultaneously making us laugh out loud with characters rather than at them. 

The Priest, written and directed by Michael Vukadinovich, is a pyramid of absurd humanity. It mines that humanity for tragedy. It mines that humanity for humor. It finds both in abundance. 

Father Shauna's confessional encounter with a horny Jason (Jason Genao) is a comedic goldmine, yet there's also an underlying thread of humanity woven into its foundation as a reminder of Father Shauna's emptiness inside. 

He knows he's missing something. Maybe this is it. 

As Megan, Mary Faber is an absolute gem with impeccable timing. 

By the time Father Shauna encounters Pam (Noelle Renee Bercy) and Bobby (Malcolm Madera), The Priest has entered a psychedelic twilight zone of sorts that feels like it's taking place inside a lava lamp. Malcolm Madera's Bobby, in particular, is laugh out loud funny while Oswalt masterfully underplays and makes us laugh even more. 

Then, it happens again. This twilight zone of comedy becomes surprisingly real and honest and true and Madera serves up one of the best moments in the film and I heard myself mumbling the words "That was perfect!"

It was. It was perfect. 

The best comedy, at least for me, is more than simply a joke. It's real people and real life and real absurdity and realizing that even at our most tragic we're often really, really funny humans. 

The best drama, at least for me, is more than some hyped up conflict or tearful confession. It's the still moments, the vulnerable ones that allow us to listen and learn and connect and heal and survive. 

When both comedy and drama are woven together successfully? There's perhaps nothing more sublime. 

Comedy and drama are successfully woven together in The Priest, screening this week as part of the Indy Shorts International Film Festival with a post-screening streaming Q&A for which it has been announced Oswalt will also appear. Already having screened at such fests as Florida Film Festival, DC Shorts International Film Festival, Cinequest, Austrian Film Festival, Sidewalk Film Festival and others, The Priest continues on its successful festival run set amidst the absurd comedy and drama of a pandemic-influenced festival season. 

The script by Michael Vukadinovich is weird and wonderful and winning, while D.P. Laura Merians infuses a sense of delirious humanity throughout the film's 17-minute running time. Coryander Friend's production design is perfectly aligned with the film's immersive comedic and dramatic elements. 

There's something miraculous about survival. There's something amazing about the quiet places in life that teach us lessons we need to learn. There's something awe-inspiring about the friends who always manage to call us at exactly the right time with exactly right word. 

Yet, there's also something funny about the absurdity of it all. 

I have a feeling Father Shauna understands.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic