|Directed by||Bruce Beresford|
|Written by||Susan McMartin|
|Music by||Mark Isham|
|Edited by||David Beatty|
Mr. Church is a 2016 American drama film directed by Bruce Beresford and written by Susan McMartin. The film stars Eddie Murphy as the title character with Britt Robertson, Xavier Samuel, Lucy Fry, Christian Madsen and Natascha McElhone also starring. The movie is based on the short story "The Cook Who Came to Live with Us" written by McMartin. The film centers around a cook who becomes a caretaker and father figure to three generations of women over the years. The film debuted on April 22, 2016, at the Tribeca Film Festival and was released on September 16, 2016, by Cinelou Releasing and Freestyle Releasing. This was Murphy's first film role in four years.
Charlotte "Charlie" Brooks lives with her single mother, Marie Brooks, in California. One morning, Charlie awakes to the sounds and delicious smells of cooking wafting in from the kitchen. Upon inspection, Charlie is shocked to find a strange Black man preparing breakfast. Her mother informs her that the man is Mr. Church, and he will be their new cook. Convinced that Mr. Church would intrude on the life she shared with her mother, Charlie is initially distrustful of Mr. Church and urges her mother to fire him.
Marie learns that Mr. Church was hired by Richard Cannon, a wealthy entrepreneur she'd dated until she learned he was married. When Cannon died, he left provisions in his will that provided financial support for Marie, who was diagnosed with terminal breast cancer. The provisions were slated to last for six months, to match her diagnosed life expectancy. When Mr. Church informs Marie that he was guaranteed a lifetime salary to care for the family, she decides to keep Mr. Church as their cook on the condition that he keeps her cancer a secret from Charlie.
Six years later, Marie is still living, and Mr. Church has become a comfortable fixture in the household for both Charlie and her mother. They discover that Mr. Church is a renaissance man of sorts, being an avid reader, sketch artist, gardener, gourmet cook, jazz enthusiast, and pianist.
Charlie is now a senior in high school and aware of her mother's cancer. Charlie grows distant from her mother and closer to Mr. Church because of her inability to come to terms with Marie's impending death. When Marie finds out that Charlie has decided not to attend her prom, she promises her daughter that she will stay alive if Charlie promises to go. On the big night, the three take photos as a family, and Charlie goes to the prom. Several days later, Mr. Church meets Charlie at the bus stop to deliver the news that her mother has passed.
Mr. Church stays with Charlie after Marie dies. Charlie graduates from high school and gets accepted to Boston University. With some financial assistance from Mr. Church and the gift of a car, Charlie begins her freshman year. Two years later, a pregnant Charlie shows up on Mr. Church's doorstep, stating that she's returned home to take a break from her studies. Charlie eventually asks Mr. Church if she could live with him. He agrees, as long she abides by one rule, and that is to respect his privacy.
One night, a drunk Mr. Church finds her snooping, they argue, and, pregnant or not, he throws her out of his home for breaking the rules. She leaves, and the next day runs into an old friend from the neighborhood, named Larson, at a store parking lot. After exchanging greetings, Charlie heads back to her car and is knocked unconscious to the ground by a kid on a skateboard.
Larson drives her to the hospital. Mr. Church arrives shortly after Charlie is in hospital and claims her as his responsibility. Charlie later gives birth to a baby girl named Isabel, nicknamed Izzy. They come home to live with Mr. Church.
Five years later, Charlie is working as a waitress, and she and Mr. Church are raising Izzy as a blended family. When Mr. Church becomes sick and becomes too ill to cook, Charlie begins to cook and learns that she has inherited Mr. Church's talent for cooking, based on years of watching him prepare food. Mr. Church grows sicker and eventually dies of an enlarged heart.
During the wake, Charlie is startled to find out from a friend of Mr. Church, who owned a night club, that Mr. Church had played the piano there for nearly 30 years. Conversely his friend is surprised that Mr. Church knew how to cook. It dawns on Charlie that Mr. Church was even more mysterious than she thought and that he had separate lives that he kept apart from one another. She'd always suspected that there was more to Mr. Church than meets the eye, and she was curious to find out more.
The film ends with Charlie writing the story of her life with Mr. Church.
- Eddie Murphy as Henry Joseph Church
- Britt Robertson as Charlotte "Charlie" Brooks
- Natalie Coughlin as Young Charlotte
- Natascha McElhone as Marie Brooks
- Xavier Samuel as Owen
- Lincoln Melcher as Young Owen
- Lucy Fry as Poppy
- Madison Wolfe as Young Poppy
- Christian Madsen as Eddie Larson
- Mckenna Grace as Isabel “Izzy” Brooks
- Thom Barry as Frankie Twiggs
In October 2013, it was revealed that David Anspaugh would direct the film from a screenplay by Susan McMartin, with Lee Nelson, David Buelow and David Tish producing under their Envision Media Arts arts banner, while Brad Kaplan would produce under Evolution Entertainment. In 2011, McMartin had written "The Cook Who Came to Live With Us," which was the story on which the screenplay is based.
In October 2014, Eddie Murphy joined the cast of the film, replacing Jackson, who had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict, with Bruce Beresford directing the film. Mark Canton and Courtney Solomon joined the project as producers under their Cinelou Films banner.
In November 2014, Britt Robertson joined the cast of the film, replacing Temple. Its working title was Cook but was retitled to Henry Joseph Church, the full name of Murphy's character, before being retitled to Mr. Church.
Although it was unlike the comedy films Murphy was known for, he accepted to work on the film because it was "something [he] hadn’t done before".
With a production budget of $8 million, it is the least expensive film of Murphy's career.
In December 2014, the first image of Murphy and Robertson was released. The film had its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival on April 22, 2016. Warner Bros. Pictures distributed the film internationally, part of Cinelou Films' six-film deal with the company. It was distributed domestically by Cinelou Releasing. The film was released in the United States on September 16, 2016.
Mr. Church received negative reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 24% based on 33 reviews, with an average rating of 4.4/10. On Metacritic, the film holds a weighted average score of 37 out of 100, based on 12 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".
Mark Jenkins of the Washington Post gave the film 2 out of 4, and wrote: "Murphy is fine as the title character, although his performance consists mostly of suppressing all of his usual shtick. He certainly doesn't endow Mr. Church with any unexpected depths. But then neither does the script." Nick Schager of Variety called it "A crude sugary-sweet fantasy" and "consuming so much phony, retrograde schmaltz proves a stomach-churning endeavor."
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- "Mr. Church reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved September 22, 2020.
- Jenkins, Mark (15 September 2016). "Eddie Murphy returns to the big screen in 'Mr. Church'". Washington Post.
- Schager, Nick (23 April 2016). "Film Review: 'Mr. Church'". Variety.