Hail Mary

Sigourney Weaver will rip your heart out in Prayers for Bobby, the true story of Mary Griffith, a religious mother who drives her gay son to suicide.

BY Dale Hrabi

January 05 2009 1:00 AM ET

 

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Now 74 and at peace with her guilt after years struggling to separate spirituality from hate -- 16 months after Bobby’s death she was still writing letters to God hoping that Bobby’s soul wasn’t damned—Griffith endorses Weaver’s performance. “She got it exactly right,” Griffith says, “how afraid I was, how assured that God was going to heal Bobby as if it were a slam dunk. Bobby tried to make me understand, but you see, if I condoned him, that would be Satan trying to lead him astray and all that bullshit, excuse my French.”

The only problem with Prayers for Bobby’s commitment to honesty is that the real Bobby wasn’t as blandly relatable as the script suggests. For obvious reasons, the full consequences of his family’s naive bigotry weren’t considered Lifetime-friendly. Self-destructive, Bobby spent months as a prostitute servicing, as he put it, “fat old men with glasses and false teeth.” He was miserably promiscuous, plagued by zits but obsessed with vanity, pumping iron compulsively. On-screen, Bobby is a slender, unthreatening boy next door who’s maybe given some guy a hand job once. His eyes seem to twinkle even when they’re filled with tears.

“Those were decisions the producers made,” Weaver says diplomatically. Daniel Sladek, one of four executive producers, who spent 12 years securing funding and fervently hopes that the film will be shown in schools and save other gay kids, is realistic: “We couldn’t risk not getting the movie made,” he says. “We designed Bobby to be accessible. We didn’t want to give any parent a reason to think, That’s not my son, and change the channel.”

It’s unlikely they will. Weaver’s acting is powerful, literally raw; she gives the sort of makeup-free, flabby-armed, indecorous performance that’s rarely seen tucked between Pantene commercials. It’s also personal. Weaver says that if her daughter, Charlotte, were in Bobby’s shoes, “What I’d feel much more than her being X, Y, or Z, would be her not talking to me. I hope this movie helps people realize you have to love who your kids really are. I hope Sarah Palin watches it.”

Charlotte did hit her mom with a minor revelation recently: “My daughter now has a faux-hawk,” Weaver says with a fond roll of the eyes. When it’s pointed out that a former elf can hardly be judgmental when it comes to unconventional style, she laughs: “Oh, no, I think it’s pretty! I actually call her ‘Elf.’ ”

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