“We are very sexual women here at the Abbey. Our sexuality is not denied us in any way.”
This fine documentary short subject, produced by HBO Films, was nominated for, but did not win the Oscar this year at the 84th Academy Awards. It premiered on 4/1/12 and this perhaps accounts for why, of the 15 short films nominated in the three categories last year – the other two being Live Action Short and Animated Short – God Is the Bigger Elvis was the only one not included in The Oscar Nominated Short Films 2012 Blu-ray distributed to theaters for screening to audiences in the roll-up to the Academy Awards. The winner, Saving Face, deserved the Oscar, but had The Bigger Elvis received the award, it would not have been a travesty by any means.
The short tells the story of Mother Dolores Hart, who left Hollywood as a starlet at the age of 24 to join the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem CT and become a nun. She is now Reverend Mother Prioress Dolores Hart, O(rder of)S(t.)B(enedict), and has been Prioress (i.e., 2nd in command of the Abbey, the rank below Abbess) of the Abbey since 2001. She is still a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and is the only nun ever to be an Oscar-voting member of Academy. She starred besides Elvis in two films and even shared a kiss with him on Loving You. The film is relatively long as shorts go, timing in at 37 minutes. For a Connecticutian like me, it’s particularly interesting. The Abbey was long a visiting place for my parents when my Mom was alive.
The Abbey is a working farm and the film bears this out, showing the sisters working the land, caring for the livestock including the llama, running tractors, etc. It also the home of an open-air, covered theater which holds a performance each summer with the financial & theatrical assistance of Mother Hart and her late friend, Academy Award Winner Patricia Neal. Neal won her Best Actress Oscar for her role as Alma Brown in Hud but is perhaps most remembered as the creepy cougar (before that word was even a remote thought) Emily in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Recent productions include West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof, Oklahoma, and You can’t Take It With You. This summer, two productions will be done at the community theater, The Solid Gold Cadillac and South Pacific.
The most endearing quality of The Bigger Elvis, directed by Rebecca Cammisa, is its ability to portray these sisters as humans – noble, loving, caring women. As the opening line of this review states, these are sexual beings. I guess just knowing Patricia Neal is enough to make a woman creepy, irrespective of her vocation.
The film is running now on HBO East and West in regular rotation, and is available on HBO On Demand. Watch it. It’s great!