In Faith, Hope, and Love, Robert Krantz spins a story of love and healing via the dancefloor. As Jimmy Hope, a grieving father of two young girls, Krantz’s world is spinning slowly out of order, with the future of his job and happiness at stake. But when his younger daughter asks the local priest to pray for her dad and his dating life, Hope ends up joining his daughter’s dance teacher in the Pro-Schmo Dance Competition. Thanks to the skillset of the dance teacher, Peta Murgatroyd’s Faith Turley, Hope’s dancing future has a fighting chance, even while the two of them teach each other how to love again.
While the film has some strongly choreographed dance scenes, and some extremely funny interchange between the two leads, there are significantly serious elements to the film. While Hope must overcome his own grief, figure out how to be a solid father, and more responsibly handle his job, Faith has her own issues. Faith has some image issues, including that we know she had an eating disorder in high school, and seeks the praise of men to feel fulfilled; she also feels betrayed by her ex-husband who had a series of affairs, keeping her from experiencing trust. The two of them are definitely wounded, but together, they find healing … and rhythm.
As the two of them are assumed to be “a thing,” even sexually active, by people they know, their chaste relationship allows for friendship to grow, while they’re both figuring out which way is forward. There’s something quaint, even appealing, about the formation of friendship that they share, like Rik Swartzwelder’s Old Fashioned, thanks to the performances by both Krantz and Murgatroyd. They’re not alone either: M. Emmet Walsh, Ed Asner, Michael Richards, and Corbin Bernsen have funny smaller parts.
But while their relationship, and their ability to dance in a small stage knock off of Dancing with the Stars, are the focus of the action, the theological ramifications aren’t shorted either. While Hope admits that he would have considered himself a casual Christian until his wife died and he found himself praying more, his encouragement of Turley’s faith is an integrated, realistic inclusion in the film.
While Hope’s narration begins with asking “Do you believe in God?” faith is picked up in his daughter’s request to the priest (he replies “I’ll say a prayer and we’ll leave everything up to God”) and situations through the couple’s preparation for the dance competition. In one great scene, they’re inspired by their Uber driver to pray “Be strong and courageous” from Joshua, even while Turley questions whether her prayers count because she hasn’t been baptized. And Hope’s reliance on his Bible study group draws Turley into relationship with people of faith, and with God Himself.
The engaging rom-com Krantz has created has more layers than the average theatrical blockbuster, and I can only hope that audiences will give it a chance. The entertainment value is high - but the realistic interaction of a person with faith with a friend who doesn’t know what they believe makes it more powerful than one would expect. Krantz has wrapped up deeper meanings, real life situations, and faith-filled moments into a beautiful package waiting to be unwrapped.