The Counselor and Catholicism


Look, I know The Counselor is not for everybody, but I’d still like to point out three interesting moments:

Brad Pitt’s statement that he could leave the drug business any time he wants. “I could go to a monastery, scrub the stairs, wash the toilets,” he assures us. Why doesn’t he? “Women.” (His weakness. Naturally, it proves his undoing.) Interesting that he chooses a monastery as his place away from the life, instead of, say, a beach on some tropical island with a drink in his hand. Also interesting that he mentions cleaning toilets – this is after he’s told Fassbender: “I’ve seen it all. It’s all shit.” (A major theme in the film.)

Fassbender’s constant appeal to Jesus when he realizes that everything has gone horribly wrong. “Jesus,” he says to Pitt. “Jesus.” Of course, in the context of the film, he’s just cursing. But it also reads as a prayer. Because no one else can save him at that point.

Most interesting of all: Cameron Diaz’s confession scene. She wants to mess with the priest, pour the poison of her sexual debauchery in his ear without asking for or receiving forgiveness – because she thinks it would be fun and maybe a little bit hot. But the priest will have nothing to do with her. “There would be no point,” he says flatly. When she persists, cooing, “You just have to listen,” he stands up and leaves the confessional. This Catholic priest is the only person she interacts with who escapes unscathed. Even her accountant at the end hears more than he wants to hear.


  1. Since The Counselor is a Cormac McCarthy effort (and therefore a film I want to see), I for one am not surprised at these elements. Was it Elie who spoke in his Percy keynote about the mythological remnants of the faith to be found in McCarthy’s work? Something to that effect, anyhow…

    (I know Bernardo is probably reading this – so, yes, I’m working on the interview with Elie – can’t you tell?)

    I go back and forth on McCarthy and the faith. I think to the extent that Faulkner had the “eternal verities” McCarthy has the advantage of being formed, at least in part, in the “Eternal City” which is peopled with those verities. On the other hand, the faith seems to remain at arm’s length in the novels, anyway – as if to get too close to them would force many more questions on both novelist and characters than his simple style would be able or willing to answer…


  2. Quin Finnegan says

    Great, great observations, I think you’re spot on.

    Yeah, despite my misgivings, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Maybe because of the Brad Pitt scene at the end, as I mentioned before, or maybe because of some of the other stuff you point out here, the scene with the priest in particular. I’d only seen No Country and read Blood Meridian, but Counselor strikes me as much better than each—certainly because of the strong Catholic element—as opposed to the gnostic theology of Blood Meridian. Maybe McCarthy is evolving.

    It certainly deserved better than it got from reviewers, and as a matter of fact I have recommended it. To my Dad, my brother, and anybody else who I think might have the stomach for that ending. Not to mention Cameron Diaz and the car. What a hoot! Right?

    I just can’t recommend it in the same way I recommend 12 Years a Slave … which I do. Oh yes, I do recommend 12 Years a Slave, very much.

    Anyway, well observed. Thanks much.

  3. Jonathan Webb says

    Fassbender is an interesting actor. I’ve heard good things about the movie and will put it in the queue. Thanks.

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