Link to jump to start of content The Seattle Times Company Jobs Autos Homes Rentals NWsource Classifieds
The Seattle Times Movies
Traffic | Weather | Your account Movies | Restaurants | Today's events

Tuesday, January 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 A.M.

A tale of the American frontier and founder of Mormon faith

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie Review

Based on the first volume of a series of novels blending fiction with the origins of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "The Work and the Glory" is a likable, ambitious film that does its proselytizing in a roundabout way until its clumsy, final half-hour.

"The Work and the Glory," which opened recently in several theaters, is set during the early life of Mormon founder Joseph Smith, heroically portrayed by Jonathan Scarfe with a mix of all-American frankness and haunted charisma. The story, however, is not directly about Smith but rather a family driven to multiple layers of conflict over his spreading influence.

Movie review

Showtimes and trailer 2.5 stars

"The Work and the Glory," with Jonathan Scarfe, Sam Hennings, Ryan Wood, Alexander Carroll, Eric Johnson, Edward Albert, Tiffany Dupont. Directed and adapted screenplay by Russell Holt. 118 minutes. Rated PG for mild violence and thematic elements. Several theaters.

Set in the 1820s, "The Work and the Glory" is told from the point of view of the Steeds, farmers who move from Vermont to a wooded tract of land in Palmyra, N.Y. On the advice of a new neighbor (Edward Albert), patriarch Benjamin Steed (Sam Hennings) hires Smith and his brother Hyrum (Ryan Wood) to work the land alongside eldest Steed sons Joshua (Eric Johnson) and Nathan (Alexander Carroll). The latter pair quickly realize that the Smith brothers are regarded by locals as pariahs, trailed by rumors of angelic visions and buried gold.

In time, Joshua joins with scoundrels intent on doing harm to Joseph, who has told Nathan that God once appeared to him. Nathan becomes a defender of Joseph's mission to publish "The Book of Mormon," creating rifts within his family and with his girlfriend, Lydia (Tiffany Dupont). Lydia's previous romance with Joshua is another source of friction between the Steed men.

Director Russell Holt, who wrote the adapted screenplay, comes close to achieving an absorbing, semi-secular saga about the religious bigotry that confronted Smith while also entertaining audiences with the Steeds' sundry dramas. Holt's mostly handsome production — compromised by awful camera framing at times — does a credible job of evoking the new American frontier.

But eventually, the balancing act proves unwieldy as the film's ultimate purpose — building interest in Smith and his legacy — overtakes everything and brings the Steeds' story to a hasty, artificial conclusion.

Tom Keogh:

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company