Created Equal Review

Created Equal is a 2018 drama about a cocky, up-and-coming attorney who takes on a case to sue the Archdiocese for sex discrimination.

In the current social climate where women have deservedly continued to gain a greater voice in not only reaching equality but resetting perceptions and attitudes towards them, films have also taken to given that message a broader reach. Bill Duke‘s latest legal thriller, Created Equal, tackles an issue long in contention, the right of women to become priests, something they have been banned from since the religion’s origins, enforced by the Church all the way up to the Pope. It’s a small film with big ambitions that surely has the right intentions, even as it lacks the momentum and depth to fully deliver it.

Alejandra Batista (Edy Ganem) is a young nun working at a church outreach program in New Orleans, encouraging the little girls in the school to reach for their dreams, though when one of them desires to grow up and be a priest, both she and Batista are shut down by the Mother in charge. Batista also wants to be a priest, or at least be admitted into the seminary so she can study. Denied at every level, she, being connected to a named partner at a big law firm, is put in the hands of Tom Reilly (Aaron Tveit), a dedicated attorney who is famous for avoiding trial and getting cash settlements. She’s not having it though and it’s not long before Tom is pulled into her cause, deciding to bring the Church to court.

Safely avoiding a preachy message, Duke and screenwriter Ned Bowman keep this mostly about the law and trail, playing by the rules of many courtroom dramas that have come before. Tom is a wealthy, handsome womanizer with a girlfriend he under-appreciates and who suspects he is not faithful, making him the cardboard cutout figure that a story like this seems to demand, his straying ways in need of correcting. Batista is a beautiful young woman with grit and determination, having lived a sinless high quality life that makes her practically already an angel on Earth. These are pretty rigid traits that don’t give the film much to do in developing them any further, even if both leads are well cast and convincing.

The film does try to put on the table discrimination issues and more stickily, those concerning the separation of church and state, something brought up often in the testimony and actions within the court. Tom faces extreme opposition from the firm, who are looking for a quick settlement, and his mother (Jo-Ann Robinson), who says he will ruin the faith for everyone if he wins. Meanwhile, a demented man devoted to the rules of the Church becomes committed to killing Batista, stalking and physically attacking her and Tom, dominating a large part of the third act. It’s a contrived tributary to a story that doesn’t need it, the courtroom legal battle far more compelling. 

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Created Equal is a small budget film with a lot to say, and while that does limit its scope, at least the message is well delivered. It’s grounded by some good performances from supporting players, including Lou Diamond Phillips as a Monsignor and Gregory Alan Williams as the judge, both who give the story the best weight. However, it ultimately lacks the larger emotional impact, forced into an ending that I won’t reveal but is expected. While some will surely get more out of it, this will be an underwhelming experience for most.

Created Equal Review

Movie description: Created Equal is a 2018 drama about a cocky, up-and-coming attorney who takes on a case to sue the Archdiocese for sex discrimination.

Director(s): Bill Duke

Actor(s): Lou Diamond Phillips, Aaron Tveit, Gregory Alan Williams

Genre: Drama

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