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Generally favorable reviews - based on 25 Critics What's this?

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6.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 8 Ratings

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  • Starring: , , ,
  • Summary: Nanni Moretti joins forces with the great French actor Michel Piccoli to tell the story of Melville, a cardinal who suddenly finds himself elected as the next Pope. Never the front runner and completely caught off guard, he panics as he's presented to the faithful in St. Peter's Square. To prevent a world wide crisis, the Vatican's spokesman calls in an unlikely psychiatrist who is neither religious or all that committed, played by Moretti, to find out what is wrong with the new Pope. As the world nervously waits outside, inside the therapist tries to find a solution. But Cardinal Melville is adamant: he does not want the job, or at least needs time to think it over. What follows is a marvelous insight into the concept of a human being existing behind the title of God’s representative on Earth. (Sundance Selects) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 25
  2. Negative: 0 out of 25
  1. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Apr 5, 2012
    90
    Mr. Moretti finds broad comedy in the antics of some clerics, who can seem as sweet as children, but in Melville there is pathos and there is tragedy, and not his alone.
  2. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Apr 25, 2012
    88
    There are elements of comedy here, and some very low-key slapstick, but the film is respectful to the Catholic Church and the papacy and takes no cheap shots.
  3. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    May 11, 2012
    75
    This is rich material that Moretti mines for both superficial absurdity and deep pathos.
  4. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Apr 1, 2012
    63
    Nanni Moretti's latest is a mixed bag that too often settles for easy, superficial laughs.
  5. Reviewed by: Marsha Lederman
    May 31, 2012
    63
    If only Moretti had had the faith in his story and its gentle, organic comedy, and done away with the forced silliness.
  6. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Apr 13, 2012
    50
    Piccoli gives the film a depth it perhaps doesn't deserve.
  7. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Apr 3, 2012
    40
    The satire becomes more scattershot and strangely cuddlesome (didja know sequestered holy men enjoy socializing and playing sports, just like us?), while the usually great Piccoli-saddled with a ridiculously contrived failed-actor backstory-comes off like an unholy mix of Gérard Depardieu and Robin Williams at their sad-puppiest. That's some cinematic blasphemy, Moretti.

See all 25 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 4
  2. Negative: 1 out of 4
  1. Apr 7, 2012
    10
    Having been born and raised in Brazil, perhaps the world's most Catholic country, movies that depict the Catholic church are usually biased. They often portray Catholic priests as either extremely perfect or extremly evil. In "We Have a Pope", however, no single character is either way. Every character is perfectly human. The Cardinals are portrayed as any other professional is. Everyone loves the religious calling, but some tend to be extremely obedient whereas others tend to be more relaxed; some find their profession revigorating, whereas others find it dull sometimes. And, this is true of any job: no matter where one works at, people are human to like or dislike the job sometimes. And perhaps the most human character in the movie is the protagonist, the elected Pope who is too afraid to accept his new calling. He comes to a point in life where he realizes that there are unfulfiled dreams in his life that he wishes to accomplish; there are things he has never experienced before and that make him see life in a whole new manner. And, again, that is true of many of us. We might reach a point in our life when we look back and wonder if that is the career or the life we really wanted for ourselves.
    In the end, it is not a movie about a pope or a priest, but rather, a movie about us, humans, trying to better understand our deep fears, desires and convictions.
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  2. Dec 5, 2013
    7
    Director Nanni Moretti seems to be conflicted about his feelings regarding the Catholic Church. He has been quoted as saying he’s not religious. Yet after watching Habemus Papum (Latin for We Have a Pope), it is clear that while Moretti wants to poke fun at the mystique created by the Vatican, he also secretly harbors some respect and reverence for His Holiness. Even as Moretti tries to expose the Holy Father for being the human being that he ultimately is, the director keeps his distance, almost as though he is folding his hands and keeping his head bowed while he removes the layers of papal garments with his directorial lenses and tries to reveal the essence of the man behind the facade.

    As the film opens, the masses have congregated in St. Peter’s Square and the smoke from the Sistine Chapel chimney is still black, which means the cardinals still have not decided who will be the new pope. In Moretti’s comical version, every cardinal is praying frantically that he will not be chosen, and finally a compromise candidate named Melville is elected. And then something unforeseen and preposterous occurs. The newly elected pope is about to bless “the faithful,” who are awaiting his appearance on the Vatican balcony, when he has a complete nervous breakdown in the wings as he suddenly realizes he has taken on a responsibility he cannot handle.

    During the next few days when the new pope is going crazy, Moretti focuses on the mundane and more human traits of the Vatican officials. As played by Michel Piccoli, the pope is examined by a doctor as he lies in bed showing a pot belly and a hairy chest. While the cardinals remain isolated in their papal conclave, they are shown smoking cigarettes, working on jigsaw puzzles, and taking psychiatric medication at bedtime. They also eat sumptuous meals and enjoy going to the museum to see Caravaggio on exhibit. Moretti plays the psychiatrist who is called in to analyze the troubled Holy Father, but he’s not allowed to ask personal questions about childhood, sex, or dreams, and he must conduct his therapeutic session in front of all the cardinals. He has no effect, and the pope runs away, eventually falling in with an acting troop, which is fitting because the truth is that he was a failed actor, unlike his sister who got accepted to the acting academy. The pope never forgot his disappointment over being rejected; as he falls in with the acting troupe, he lets on that he knows the lines from Chekhov’s Seagull by heart.

    In the end, Moretti’s message is that being the pope requires professional acting skills, and that it is mostly about costumes, lavish sets, theatrical gestures, and good scripts. When the tortured pope finally steps onto the balcony from which he previously fled, he dons the formal gown and the papal hat only to tell the crowds below that he cannot lead them and that he is not their pope. The crowds are heartbroken and devastated because they were aching to believe in him, and so it seems, was Nanni Moretti.
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  3. Mar 9, 2013
    5
    What starts off as a good idea falls apart in the second half. If it's going to be a comedy, then let's make it droll, but all they manage is a dragged out farce made worse with an endless one joke volleyball game. Then they make the pope out to be a dimwit surrounded by a herd of them. Bad writing, ludicrous plot, weak characters. Shame, it could have been good in the right hands. Expand
  4. Jan 7, 2013
    3
    I was raised Catholic, so when I sat down to watch We Have a Pope, I suspected the critics who had been lukewarm to this movie just didn't get it. Sometimes high hopes lead to poor reactions, and that may be why I found We Have a Pope to be the most disappointing movie I'd seen during 2012. On the whole it wasn't funny enough to be a comedy and neither profound or complexly human enough to be a good drama.

    The basic plot starts with a papal election where it is clear that none of the eligible cardinals really want the job. Then a cardinal who wasn't considered favored is elected. At first he goes along with this, but right before his elevation is announced, he balks. Because the new pope hasn't officially introduced himself to the people, no one else can do it and all of the cardinals must remain shut in the Vatican until he changes his mind.

    All of this is fodder for some hilarious moments or profound statements about faith and human psychology and power. However, We Have a Pope wastes all of these opportunities by shying away from all the difficult questions this situation calls up. The new pope doesn't doubt his faith and never manages to articulate a reason for his refusal more complex than he's not up to the job. The movie meanders along to an ending which is only shocking in that it took two hours to arrive at the place we had been fifteen minutes in. The only bright spot in this slog is an intramural volleyball game between cardinals from different geographic regions. Spoiler: Oceania scores a point!
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