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Film Review: Arlen Faber

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
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Note: Magnolia is releasing this film under the title "The Answer Man."

PARK CITY -- Arlen Faber is a prophet with too much honor in his own time. A pithy but warm yarn about a best-selling author who has been touched by God, "Arlen Faber" is the kind of gentle and smart amusement that might passeth the understanding of provincial elitist Hollywood decision-makers but will strike a strong chord with middle-American audiences.

Jeff Daniels stars as Faber, a pop figure author whose best-seller "Me and God" catapulted him to superstar status in today's mass-media culture. Faber is beloved by millions for the uplifting, common-sense answers his book provides. Yet, he's not a man of the masses; psychologically, he's more akin to W.C. Fields, a crotchety loner who despises pop culture and the attendant psycho-babble that engulfs his life.

"Faber" is an unpretentious, subtle story of one man's redemption, ironically a man with "all the answers." It's also an appealing love story as Faber finds his dreary life opened up by a single mother (Lauren Graham).

Poking fun at false religiosity and the cult of celebrity, writer-director John Hindman has crafted an endearing, smart social satire and better yet an engaging glimpse into one lost soul's return to his humanity, one laced with droll dialogue as well as acerbic wit.

Daniels is aptly conflicted as the grumpy, reclusive author. With his nippy delivery and inherent good-guy nature, he conveys the burden of an imperfect man who supposedly has all the answers. Daniels' slapstick skills resurface in a smart-and-smarter way in this amusement, and he also flashes a curmudgeonly side, ideal for the film's skewering of new-age nuttiness.

Hindman has created well-rounded and flawed supporting characters, and the performances are empathetic. Graham is appealing as the chiropractor who literally and figuratively straightens out this "man of God," while Lou Taylor Pucci is all nerve ends as a recovering alcoholic.

Technical contributions are well realized, with special praise to production designer Alex DiGerlando, whose worldly objects convey the inner beings of "Faber."

Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Production: IDealPartners Film Fund
Cast: Jeff Daniels, Lauren Graham, Lou Taylor Pucci, Olivia Thirlby, Kat Dennings, Nora Dunn
Director-screenwriter: John Hindman
Producers: Kevin Messick, Jana Edelbaum
Executive producers: Rachel Cohen, Stephen Hays, Peter Graham, Michael Lesser
Director of photography: Oliver Bokelberg
Production designer: Alex DiGerlando
Costume designer: Rebecca Bentjen
Editor: Jerry Greenberg
No rating, 97 minutes