Fireproof: Part 6

Sorry, all, that I’ve been lingering on with this dumb movie—this summer has been incredibly busy for me.

Following Caleb’s triumph of conquering his alleged porn addiction by destroying the computer, and the delivery of the divorce papers, Catherine heads off to the medical supply store.  (Conveniently located in the same mini-mall as Bobby Lee Duke’s Lollipop Shop and the Biscuit Barn.  I wish I was making that up.)

I’m honestly not sure why Catherine goes to the medical supply shop—I guess she just hangs out there for kicks.  As we discussed in Part 1, Catherine’s mom needs a new hospital bed and wheelchair, but insurance won’t cover them.  Catherine and Caleb have the exact needed amount in their savings, but it never crosses either of their minds to use it for the equipment.  Caleb because he covets a boat, Catherine because…I don’t know why.

I also don’t know why Catherine is even there, except that it gives the receptionist the opportunity to tell her that all the equipment has been paid for and delivered that morning.  Catherine wanders out in a daze.

Yanno, we discussed how weird it is that Catherine never even thought about using their family savings on her parents, but it actually becomes even more pertinent now that they are actually divorcing (or so she thinks…sigh).  I mean, Caleb and Catherine’s assets would be divided, their nice big house would probably be sold.  Or Catherine’s parents could move into the house with her…or she with them.  Just sayin’, there are more options here than seem to appear in her mind.

Catherine, of course, thinks Flirty Doctor paid for all the equipment.  She thanks him for “giving money” and they hold hands.

Let’s get one thing clear, here: the movie wants us to think that Catherine is blinded by this shameful lust, and not seeing the Changed Man that is her husband.  But if memory serves, Caleb is the guy who never discussed Catherine’s parents with her and accused her of being selfish.  Flirty Doctor is the guy who listened to her problems and complimented her devotion and love.

So it’s not like Catherine is drawing unreasonable conclusions here or anything.


Meanwhile, Caleb is actually doing a chore around the house—collecting the trash.  (Well, it has been a few days since he last whalloped that poor, innocent trash can.  He’s probably just looking for an excuse.)

And he finds an excuse when he stumbles upon opens up an envelope and reads a card from Flirty Doctor to Catherine.  The envelope is in Catherine’s room, on her dresser, so I’m not sure what business it is of her separated husband who happens to live in the same house until the divorce goes through.  Anyway, it’s all quite sweet—Flirty Doctor just writes how much he enjoys talking with Catherine and seeing her at work every day.

Proving that he is, indeed, a totally Changed Man, Caleb sits down with Catherine when she gets home, and they discuss the matter.

HA!  Almost had you there, didn’t I?  Of course Caleb doesn’t talk to Catherine about this—that would involve…talking, and we know Caleb doesn’t do that with the wimmin-folk.  Nope, instead he calls the hospital like a stalker, inquiring after a “Gavin…I only have a first name.”

Caleb stalks over to the hospital and confronts Flirty Doctor in his office, sticking a finger in his face, just like he always does when another human behaves in a manner of which Caleb disapproves.

Caleb:  I know what you’re doing!  And I have no intention of stepping aside as you try to steal my wife’s heart.

Caleb ends his little challenge (for “going after” Catherine) with a lovely little threat: he makes a fist and thanks Flirty Doctor for helping him with his hand.


Changed Man!

What a horrible person he is.  Seriously.  Violence is still how he wants to solve all his problems.  Let’s just see how long it is until he bullies his wife again, too.

But don’t worry—the movie knows who the real villain is.  It’s Flirty Doctor…who was married all along, and takes off his ring every day when he comes to work.

Color me doubtful that a doctor could keep his marital status a secret in the workplace, especially in this pretty small city.  Ooo, but hey, it’s dramatic, right?

Frightened by Buck Williams’ fist of doom, Flirty Doctor blows off his lunch date with Catherine.  Catherine ends up eating lunch with a terrible actress random volunteer or possibly nurse that we have never met before.

The woman prays over her cafeteria lunch then dispenses this amazing wisdom.

Terrible Actress:  Catherine, you’re so young.  I would encourage you to make your choices carefully.

Hell, the woman is making Catherine’s case for her.  I mean, Catherine is young, her marriage sucks, and she has every chance to find someone who isn’t an abusive asshole!

Terrible Actress is apparently quite the busybody, noticing that “a certain young doctor” is trying to “woo you while you’re still married.”

Hey, lady, she really couldn’t be much more separated.  The papers have been served and they’re sleeping in separate rooms and have for weeks.

Catherine tells Terrible Actress to fuck off in the nicest possible Christian Film way, and we head into another Christian Song Musical Montage!

Caleb sits on the fire engine and contemplates his wedding ring!  Catherine sits on a bench and contemplates the middle distance!  Caleb sweeps the floor!  (Changed Man Alert!)  Caleb fights a fire!  Caleb trains his men!  Caleb takes a jog!  Caleb gazes at the door to Catherine’s bedroom!  Caleb prays!  Caleb sits in a tree and contemplates the middle distance!  Caleb lifts weights!  Caleb contemplates the abandoned church camp cross!  Caleb trains his men some more!  Caleb reads the Bible!  Caleb washes a couple of dishes!  Catherine notices that Caleb has done a few dishes!  Caleb fights a fire!  Caleb takes a walk!

There’s lots of Caleb and not much Catherine in this montage, is what I’m saying.  And man, but that montage took forever.

Did Flirty Doctor pay for all that stuff?  Will Catherine do the right thing and stay with her violent husband?  Stay tuned!  (More this week, I promise!)


Posted on August 11, 2014, in Fireproof, Movies. Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. And here I was, rooting for Catherine to leave Caleb, but a girl can dream of what might have been, if Catherine did not buy Caleb’s “I’m a changed man!” thing with a plugged nickel. But even if I haven’t seen this movie, I can see the ending coming from a mile away.

  2. A montage! Lazy, vague storytelling that allows the target audience to read into it what they want to without committing to anything but the most superficial elements. Akin to the Jerry Jenkins “write-dialogue-by-having-characters-talk-on-the-phone” technique, the montage takes “show, don’t tell” to it’s absurd extreme.

    And yet even with something as simple as this, I’m still surprised that the filmmakers botch it.

    There are 17 shots, with Catherine in only two. Of the 15 “Caleb” shots, nine could just have easily taken place at any point prior to the film’s beginning. So about 2/3rds of our montage is showing us things we already know. This isn’t some late 70’s 3-hour epic film where a recap helps us stay awake and alert. This is just wasting the audience’s time.

    And then there’s the Christian angle. Three shots in this montage are “explicitly Christian” and five more show Caleb acting in a traditional gender role, (doing his manly day job, exercising, or leading other men) compared to a whopping two shots of “actually being a better partner”. (by sweeping or doing dishes)

    It’s also part-and-parcel of the awful Christian-entertainment model that the “changed man” montage comes directly after the “I’m going to fight for my marriage” scene. Caleb won’t “reconcile” with his wife, he won’t “heal” his marriage; those are icky feminine things. No, he will train himself, fight to hang on to his wife, and she will see how manful he is, and show him the respect he desires after his manful display of manfulness!

    I suspect the Terrible Actress was written into the script as a sort of subtle, open-to-interpretation Angel Unaware trope. (sorry, TVTropes link) Like the stranger who dispenses sage advice when the protagonist most needs to hear it, except she’s introduced to us by seeing her pray. It’s even possible that she was directed to act badly, deliver her lines with a heavy, flat reading, to emphasize the whole “God speaks to us in many ways” business. (though I’d still bet on “bad actress”)

    I’d like to imagine that the next scene is Caleb, painting the back door as Catherine arrives home from work. She sees him doing a chore she mentioned needed doing (back at the start of the movie) and smiles, pleased at the changes. “Thank you for painting the door. It looked awful before.”

    Caleb looks up, relaxed, maybe a little sad, but smiling. “Yeah, well, I figure we should spruce the house up a bit; we’ll need to sell it in the divorce.”

    Catherine looks a little surprised, and hurt. “Right. The divorce…” and then wanders off.

    I’d like to imagine that scene, because it would provide a plausible bridge to either a reconciliation or a divorce. It would re-contextualize Caleb’s “changed man” routine from “what I need to do to save my marriage” into “how I should be treating other people in general”. And it would set up an ending where they not only reconcile, but enact lasting changes in their marriage, symbolized by selling the house and starting over fresh. I’d like to imagine that, because I know the movie won’t even get half that close to good storytelling.

  3. Destroying the computer wasn’t enough. There’s still porn out there on the Internet! Burn it all down!

    RodeoBob, it seems to me that the message this film’s really sending is that there is a Right Way for a man to conduct a marriage, and if he follows the instructions then he’s done all that can possibly be expected; if it doesn’t work at that point then it’s Not His Fault. It’s an attitude that seems very much tied into the blame-assigning litigious side of American culture (“well, I did what I was meant to do, so you can’t blame me“).

  4. Firedrake – absolutely. I’m obviously torn between the story I want to see (people confronting personal and inter-personal challenges, growing and developing through an arc) and the story the filmmakers want us to see: find Jesus and your wife will behave and you won’t crave internet porn. (as much…)

    Like Witnessing tools or the How-to-convert-an-Atheist Scripts, it’s a presentation of “do this to get that”, employing the finest Underpants Gnome logic available. And like those things, any real world attempt is going to fail, but with a built-in blame system of either “I didn’t have enough faith” or “you’re resisting the will of God”.

    I’d like to believe that this is a story that could have been told better, and could have still retained a lot of strong Christian messaging in the process, but the kinds of changes required would make it no longer a “Christian(tm)” film, in the same way that Evanescence and Creed aren’t “Christian rock”.

  5. inquisitiveraven

    Umm, Ruby? Did you mean to link to a page about Athens, GA instead of Albany?

  6. So, until a day ago Caleb, a married man, was constantly oggling other women on the internet. Now he finds out that Flirty Doctor, a married man, is oggling another woman. Does our Changed Man(TM) share his newfound belief about how Flirty Doctor is risking his soul, or how Flirty Doctor is would be so much happier if he patched things up with his own wife*? Pfff, no. Violence is always the answer!

    Seriously, how those Caleb justify this**? It’s the RTCs claim that looking at porn is just as bad as actual adultery, isn’t it? The main difference is that he knows nothing about these other women he’s oggling (and I’m betting that’s a feature, not a bug), while Flirty Doctor is after his wife. The same wife who, as Caleb constantly complains, doesn’t seem to like him no matter what he does, and who is clearly trying to stop being his wife ASAP.

    But then, I don’t think it’s the “wife” part of “his wife” that explains why Caleb is so pissed here, it’s the “his”. Flirty Doctor is trying to steal*** what’s rightfully his, dammit! It’s why, again, he doesn’t even bother talking to his wife about how he really wants to make things work with her after he finds out she has an admirer****, but goes straight to the man to tell him to back off.

    And can you blame Caleb for being worried? He’s been working so, so hard doing kind, romantic things (because his dad made him follow a book that told him to do so) in order to reset the love-meter on his Wife-O-Tron 2000 to its initial high setting. And now he finds that Flirty Doctor is also doing kind romantic things (because he really wants to be romantically involved with her). That means she’s going to love him! There’s no point in asking the Wife-O-Tron 2000 how she feels about Flirty doctor or begging her to give him a second chance. She’ll be just as powerless to resist Flirty Doctor’s niceties as Caleb’s. The only way to get the proper output of love is to block the faulty input.

    * Do we ever get to see his wife? I’m guessing no. Because the betrayal of the actual person Flirty Doctor is married to is probably considered irrelevant compared to the betrayal of his Marriage.
    ** Oh wait, he played Buck-Its-Only-Cool-When-I-Do-It-WIlliams, he should have plenty of practice with cognitive dissonance.
    *** I wish Flirty Doctor had replied “Stealing her heart? Her heart was broken, neglected and left totally unattended. I didn’t steal anything, I just salvaged it.”
    **** “Jae Caleb, you went through my stuff? I can’t tell you how offended I am.” Except here, that would be justified, as Catherine isn’t a serial cheater, there was no blindness-excuse explaining why Caleb needed to clean her room and read her letters, and of course, she’s in the process of divorcing his ass.

    • Now, now, be fair. It’s been at least a -week- since Caleb last ogled another woman.

      • Is it? The finding the letter thing happened before the whole flashback, and there was only a day between that and him trashing his computer I believe. Or did he manage to, ahem, deal with his addiction before opening his browser? I guess in that case it was a bit longer since his last oggle.

        But even then it’s still incredibly hypcritical of Caleb. (Much like all Jenkins’ protagonists who treat all non-believers with hate and contempt within 24 hours of becoming a believer.) Caleb’s furious at Flirty Doctor for his sins when the day before he was so sorely tempted that the only way he could resist his urge was by utterly destroying the source of his temptation. And since Flirty Doctor’s source is Catherine, that isn’t an option for him, as I’m sure Caleb will agree.

        Well… pretty sure… moderately confident… cautiously optimistic. Look, he’s an abusive husband who solves his problems through violence and can’t stand the presence of women who’re not saying what he wants to hear. Even after the altar-call happy ending this movie is working towards, I give it about a 10% chance Caleb will star in Cops in the next 10 years.

        • With luck, as “ex-husband who tried to get his children back” rather than anything worse. Still, his chances of dying in a fire are higher than those of most of the population.

    • Oh, man, now I’m having flashbacks to Wayne’s World of all things. Where everybody, apparently including the girl, just assumes that whichever of the macho swaggering dickheads does more impressive stuff will get the girl. It’s not even a subject for discussion.

  7. I was looking forward to Ruby’s recap of Fireproof, but now I just feel really sad. Caleb is clearly abusive and hates women. He has major anger issues and knows of only one way to solve any and all problems. Ok, two … beat something up (or threaten to) or talk to his dad. I feel like the whole movie (and possibly the love dare book itself) is just setting up abusers to justify their failures. “Hey, I DID everything the book told me to do (barely) and I PRAYED and my wife still left me for someone who doesn’t scream at her or stalk her at work. Its all her fault the marriage ended”. Oh Catherine. You deserve a better ending in a better movie.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy

    Did Flirty Doctor pay for all that stuff? Will Catherine do the right thing and stay with her violent husband?

    Will Caleb AcceptJesusChristAsHisPersonalLORDandSavior?
    Breaking the fourth wall to lead the audience in TheSinnersPrayer?

    Stay tuned!

    Same Bat-time! Same Bat-channel!”

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