Honk for Jesus. Save your soul. Is a dark relationship drama disguised as a comedy

The following contains spoilers for Honk for Jesus. Save Your Soul., available to stream now on Peacock.

From the start, Honk for Jesus. Save your soul. was billed as an expansive comedy: a satirical send-off of mega-church figures and the place where faith, profit and fame intertwine. The movie itself delivers in those arenas, and then in others, expertly skewering that particular niche of American religion. However, more than that, Honk for Jesus is interested in exploring its characters, taking them and their struggles seriously, between jokes. The result is a surprisingly dark look at a couple whose lavish lifestyle belies a gilded cage, from which there is little hope of escape.

Honk for Jesus is presented as a mockumentary following the Childs, owners of the Wander to Greater Paths Baptist Church. Once the biggest names in black megachurches, the Childs fell on hard times after a scandal destroyed their reputation and caused worshipers to seek salvation elsewhere. Unfazed, Pastor Lee-Curtis (Sterling K. Brown) has plans for a big comeback and, with his loyal first lady Trinitia (Regina Hall) by his side, will stop at nothing to reclaim their former glory.

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The exact nature of the scandal that brought down WGP is not initially revealed to the public. At first, the children’s problems seem financial; Lee-Curtis is a clear proponent of the prosperity gospel, and the couple proudly display their tax-exempt wealth as proof of their favor with the Lord. This kind of excess is known to spark controversy among real-life televangelists like Jim Bakker and Reverend Ike. However, the truth is soon revealed: Lee-Curtis, a fervent campaigner against the “gay agenda”, was discovered to have had affairs with young men in his congregation. His actions were not illegal, but the homophobia he preached combined with his hypocrisy was enough to tarnish WGP’s reputation, reducing their numbers from tens of thousands to a measly five parishioners.

It is here where Honk for Jesus reveals his hand as, despite his drive, charisma, and charm, Lee-Curtis is not the main character; The Trinity is. She’s working just as hard for a comeback as her husband, but while Lee-Curtis has already moved past her past indiscretions, Trinitie hasn’t. Although she never says anything explicitly, it’s clear that Trinitie knows that she and Lee-Curtis can never bring the church — or their marriage — back to what it was.

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It should be noted that Honk for Jesus is one of the best works of Regina Hall’s career. She’s an accomplished cheerleader in her husband’s endeavors, but there’s a twinge of pain and despair in everything she does that’s subtle but unmistakable. Even when she degrades herself in church service, she does so with a forced smile that is utterly heartbreaking to watch. It’s a sublime performance and hopefully will be remembered once awards season returns.

Both Trinitie and Lee-Curtis are imprisoned in prisons of their own making. Lee-Curtis, who has made the demonization of homosexuals a cornerstone of his theology, cannot ignore his attraction to other men. During this time, Trinitie forged her identity as a staunch supporter of her husband’s mission. However, when that mission falls apart and her privileges come with it, Trinitie is left with nothing but her marriage to a man she knows cannot love her. Honk for Jesus rises not only by mocking American religion, but by showing empathy for people who realize that they have subscribed to a system that locks them into identities that are no longer real – and that do not perhaps never have been.

Honk for Jesus. Save your soul. is available to stream on Peacock.