This may not be an idea that’s been pondered much, if at all. But imagine if Jesus, when presented with the notion that he’s the Messiah and all the responsibilities that entails, had thought it over and decided, I’m just not into it. That’s pretty much the heart of the premise of Mark Ruffalo’s directing debut, the quirky head scratcher, Sympathy For Delicious.
Christopher Thornton is the unfortunate ‘Delicious’ Dean O’Dwyer in question, a former LA club DJ, or rather ‘turn table-ist’ who’s hit on hard times, following a recent accident that left him a paraplegic. Since then, a bitter Dean has descended into a deep funk and in denial of his reality, living out of his car. And rejecting offers from Father Joe (Mark Ruffalo), the ministering skid row priest there, to set him up in an alternative living complex.
But Dean’s life is radically transformed one day when he touches a homeless friend in physical distress, and to his surprise heals by accident whatever illnesses happens to be ailing the equally stunned guy. And sooner than you can say faith healing, a possibly shady Father Joe is lining up the afflicted and passing around the donation basket, for the not entirely enthused ambivalent sidewalk sorcerer. Especially since Dean’s magical powers don’t seem to work at all when applied to himself. Along with suspicions that the potentially conniving priest is not giving him anywhere near a fair share of the proceeds.
So Dean is soon out of there, hooking up through a sympathetic performer (Juliette Lewis) and crafty manager (Laura Linney), with a local metal band that is offering a better financial deal. Though the catch is that he’s expected to hold court as a ‘sideshow freak.’ And strictly second banana to scary flamboyant frontman, The Stain (Orlando Bloom), during revised combo musical/medical concerts to henceforth be known as ‘Healapalooza.’
In the end, Sympathy For Delicious doesn’t seem to particularly evoke those viewer feelings for this moody anti-hero. Along with a similar identity crisis narrative written by Delicious star Thornton, that wavers with radical uncertainty between desolation row magical realism and self-serious religious dogma.
And without giving too much away, a major plot hole as deep as the road to hell paved with you know what. In which the perplexed protagonist’s nitwit lawyers don’t think to drum up even so much as one witness among the multitude of sick that Delicious has healed, to exonerate him as an accused charlatan when he’s hauled away by the authorities for the alleged metaphysical misdeeds in question.
It should be noted that Thornton happens to be an actual paraplegic since he was disabled following a tragic rock climbing accident several decades ago, and the first paraplegic to ever play Hamlet on stage. Which does infuse his confounding character with a great deal of furious emotional intensity.
Thornton has also been quoted as saying, ‘I’m quite unconvincing as a paraplegic, actually.’