Hot Take: This isn’t as simple as if you’re Christian, you’ll love it and if you’re not, you’ll hate it. It is as simple as it’s not a good movie, though.
Warning: There are spoilers throughout this “hot take” as this is more likely being read by someone who has seen the film rather than on the fence in their decision to see it.
While there are plenty of debatable topics in War Room, there’s a troubling one that really isn’t debatable: The importance of communication in a relationship.
Tony and Elizabeth Jordan, on the surface, have an enviable life. Tony is the best salesman at his pharmaceutical company and, in his late 30s, still an incredible athlete (see the physique, the back flips and dunks). Elizabeth has a successful real estate sales hobby and a perfect house with nary an ounce of dust or anything out of place. Their daughter is a well adjusted pre-teen with the best manners you’ll ever see.
Underneath the surface, there’s only one major issue: Elizabeth’s foot odor! Oh wait, no, that’s not it. Tony and Elizabeth have poor communication skills. Due to their inability to communicate, Tony yells at his wife as Elizabeth gives disapproving non-verbals and talks bitterly about her husband behind his back to anyone that will listen — the women in her real estate club, her sister and Miss Clara, her latest real estate project — hoping somehow he’ll get the message that she isn’t happy.
Rather than work on communication, Elizabeth wears their ability to fight with her husband like a badge of honor. Enter Miss Clara, the old, wise widow selling her home who also takes Mrs. Jordan under her spiritual wing, to save the day. Miss Clara teaches Elizabeth she is fighting the wrong way. Instead of disapproving of her husband and being defensive when he puts her down, Elizabeth should pray for her husband. Clara shows Elizabeth her “war room” which is different than her sitting room as it is a place specifically for praying (and it’s just a really small closet with nothing in it except for some Bible verses written on a wall and comments about the trials and tribulations of the people in her life).
After a life changing experience where Miss Clara stops a knife-wielding mugger by demanding he put down a knife in the name of Jesus, Elizabeth decides to turn to prayer. As directed by her spiritual guide, she writes all of the horrible qualities of her husband in prayer form to God, posts them on the wall of her prayer closet and waits for divine intervention.
Miss Clara drives home the point that the real enemy in this conflict isn’t poor communication but Satan. Satan must be pushed out of Tony and Elizabeth’s life. The only way to get rid of Satan? You guessed it — God!
Your husband orders you to not spend any of the money you’ve earned to help out a family member? Don’t try to discuss it. Pray for him to be a better man. You find out your husband is out with a woman and possibly cheating on you? Let it slide, God is on your side. (If your husband gets really close to cheating on you, God will make him sick to his stomach to the point where he vomits.) You feel your husband is neglecting his duties as a wife and a father by spending too much time at work? Prayer, not an open discussion with your spouse will fix it. Like Miss Clara says, God is a great defense attorney. Oh, and make sure to throw all of those smelly shoes on to the front deck when your husband is offended by the smell of your feet. (Side note: It’s fairly clear there’s no chance even God and prayer can overcome smelly feet.)
As Elizabeth stands idly by, Tony’s life falls apart as God uncovers his scheming ways to his pharmaceutical company and soon, Tony is out of work. Elizabeth does open her mouth long enough to let her husband know a few girls at the real estate club will give her some of their real estate projects to make some extra cash (you know, because the real estate hobby is all about sharing and caring) to keep their impeccable house in order while Tony finds God and learns double-dutch with his daughter.
Eventually, through some well crafted montages and some overly spiritual monologues from Miss Clara, Tony reconciles with God, finds grace (that’s the grace of God, not Grace — she died 30 years ago!), carries his daughter’s double-dutch team to second place in the county-wide double-dutch championship (maybe it was state-wide) and discovers his calling to be the director of the community center at half the pay. No mention of the fact, he didn’t tell his wife of the application or interview and barely discussed with her his decision to take the position. But she doesn’t care because she’d rather have her man chase Jesus than have a house full of stuff.
For the faith-based (important note: this is more representative of the Evangelical, “700 Club” Christians), this is an uplifting tale of the power of prayer and faith. Reading the audience reviews on Rotten Tomatoes gives a look into the appeal. The consensus loves the religious message, the lack of violence and sex (the married couple doesn’t kiss once in the entire film, they do hold hands in church once though) and no car chases, either.
The audience consensus is all about ignoring, too. And not just the mostly amateur acting (it seems to be a concession the approving audience makes regarding the acting being poor when, actually, the acting isn’t all that poor as it’s the material that is poor) or the plodding, preachy pace. There’s no mention of the complete dismissal of any sort of functional interpersonal relationship between husband and wife. Communication takes a back seat to Jesus who takes the wheel. Then there’s the dismissal of women as an equal to their spouse. Early on, Tony establishes he is the bread winner. He’s likely exaggerating but Tony states he makes four times as much as his wife. Even the most successful pharmaceutical rep makes around $120k which puts her little real estate hobby at $30k per year. Later when we find out Tony is going to make half of what he made as a community center director that puts his pharmaceutical pay at closer to $90k and her hobby at $25k which creates a whole other problem of how do they afford such an expensive house? (Especially now that Satan will no longer be paying rent after Elizabeth evicted him in the movie’s most ridiculous scene… and there’s a 10-15 minute scene featuring a double-dutch competition!)
Throughout the film, Elizabeth takes a backseat to Tony. Her role: Watch her husband become a better man by accepting God in his life while her and God dish about her hubby in her prayer closet. Her real estate hobby is never respected as a career. Jesus sells Miss Clara’s house for Elizabeth when a minister walks into Miss Clara’s prayer closet and feels the divine presence.
Even in the end, when all is well now that God has healed their marriage, Tony rewards his wife not with thanks and appreciation but with a foot rub and a hot fudge sundae.