Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 34
  2. Negative: 1 out of 34
  1. Reviewed by: Bill Weber
    Aug 22, 2011
    25
    Lacking both spiritual and narrative spark, Vera Farmiga's directorial debut suffers from her flat performance and a moribund, weirdly sex-joke-spiked narrative.
User Score
7.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 19 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 8
  2. Negative: 0 out of 8
  1. Nov 13, 2011
    10
    "Jesus Camp", the 2006 film that profiles Becky Fischer, the controversial, and to some, downright dangerous pastor who runs the Kids on Fire Ministry, is needlessly didactic in its filmic approach. Easily identifiable as a cult, the filmmakers, nevertheless, reiterates this empirical truth with blunt force by framing the movie's narrative surrounding the youth-targeted, hyper-ideological church's rightist rhetoric(smells like child abuse) around a liberal talk show host ranting from his soapbox on how the evangelicals seem to be wrong about almost everything. Viewers, reasonable viewers, that is, with eyes and ears, can make that determination for themselves, minus the liberalist nudging. Every year, the pastor's young flock meets up at Devil's Lake, a politically-minded indoctrination camp masquerading as a holy place for praising god in North Dakota, where the conservative agenda gets programmed into these moldable minds without apology. Blinded by her own zealotry, the pastor can't see the lunacy behind the notion of using children as pro-life activists, when the filmmakers show Fischer the raw footage of an anti-abortionist, creepily handing out fetus replicas for the children to hold and opine upon. For a split second, we think she'll see daylight. But alas, no. "Extreme liberals," she spews, with unchecked ego and hubris, "they have to look at this and start shaking in their boots," oblivious to the fact that it's not just liberals, but apolitical Christians, too, who may find her approach disturbing. After all, higher ground is hardly what Fischer and her kind are reaching for, but rather, it's a ground beneath the clouds, not above; it's federal ground, where politicians, not carpenters walk. To paraphrase Belinda Carlisle, government is a place on earth. Unlike "Jesus Camp", which is marred by the filmmakers' subjective approach, therefore creating a dialectic which ends up overstating the case that parents shouldn't push their children into rote worship of THEIR god, "Higher Ground" gives you the freedom to make up your own mind about the Christian world. That's because the director, a self-described liberal secularist, isn't a conservative-bashing ideologue. Unlike the alternative cinema presented by theological filmmakers, "Higher Ground" doesn't spoonfeed the gospel; it subverts the shopworn trope of a parishoner who loses his/her faith by keeping the lost soul lost to the bitter end. Without overselling the point, and without judgment, Farmiga too, shows us how children have no choice in matters concerning god, as we catch up with a young Corrine in midstream of her religious training at a Protestant church, where during a Sunday school lesson, Pastor Bud asks his kids if they want to go to heaven. It's practically a rhetorical question, a veiled threat, since the alternative, hell, isn't Corrine's idea of a good time, so she raises her hand and makes a covenant with god. It's the spiritual awakening that the mother always wanted for her girl, but a miscarriage performed the effect of secularizing this former magical thinking woman, who prior to her faith-shaking tragedy, would have been delighted that Corrine got saved. Alas, she receives the "good news" from the pastor with complete indifference. Like the protagonist in "Secret Sunshine", another grieving mother with an axe to grind against god, Kathleen seduces the pastor(the pianist goes further with her pious target), since the lord is unavailable for prurient temptation. In the Lee Chang-dong film, a celluloidal sister to "Higher Ground", the Korean mom, whose son is murdered after she fails to pay the ransom set by his kidnapper in full, drinks the kool-aid that Christians serve; the self-delusional prattling that mystifies non-believers, for instance, the pragmatist in "Rabbit Hole", who figures out that making a new angel is a far better plan than the tragedian one that god has in store for us. The mom starts to gag on the kool-aid, following a visit with her child's murderer in prison, and experiences first-hand, the lunacy of Christian dogma, which allows any sin to be forgiven, even murder, as long as you tell god you love him. (Respect Mimi Rodgers' decision in "The Rapture".) The anesthetized woman is shocked to learn that the killer prays for her. Like mother, like daughter, in "Higher Ground", the Stepford wife loses her conviction in the sacrosanct word after Annika, a good friend, stops speaking in tongues, and then stops speaking altogether, when brain tumor silences Corrine's true soulmate. She finds no grace from suffering. It doesn't make Corrine a heretic; it makes her human. Down deep inside, Corrine knows that god is a lie, but you can tell, just by looking at her face as she walks out of the church for the final time, that her feminism and intelligence are cold comforts in comparison to the warm embrace of subjugation in the patriarchal order of Christianity. Full Review »
  2. Oct 2, 2011
    6
    This drama begins with the protagonist as a young girl who finds Christ at church. As she grows, she becomes a woman (Vera Farmiga), who struggles with her faith in a small community of conservatives that first look like hippies. As director, Vera Farmiga has filled her cast with effective, genuine performances and the story is an intelligent examination. However, there's a lack of emotional dynamics that renders the film lacking in soul. Interesting, but somewhat flat. Full Review »
  3. Jan 26, 2012
    4
    Is this supposed to be a serious film, a mockumentary or a comedy? Ms Farmiga has many one-liners delivered like a comedian. Extremist religion, no matter the faith is disturbing. How can so many not believe science, not believe facts, and not believe their feelings? Falling back on the common thread that an invisible, fictional, being up in the clouds determines their life. Corinne ignores everything that makes any sense, her feelings, the facts before her eyes and why? Religion will tell me it's their faith. It's actually peer pressure. It is hard to stand up to all around you and ask questions. Teach your children to question authority. No more just accepting on faith. Do you accept priest sex abuse? If a reason is not available, don't accept on faith or deny because their are no facts; go out and seek the truth! It took way to long, almost 2 hours, for Corinne to act. Thank G, well whomever, she did. There may be those who give this film high marks, perhaps because it points out the hypocrisy of religion, but it was evident early in the film, and I could not for the life of me see why Corinne didn't get it. If looked at as a satire, it's not close to Religiousity, maybe it deserves higher marks. But if it's serious, C- or 4 is barely what it deserves. Full Review »