In-Lawfully Yours: You Can’t Take Change from the Offering Plate

Lisa HollowayBy Lisa HollowayNovember 11, 20227 Minutes

In-Lawfully Yours is a well-paced romantic comedy starring The Office’s Chelsea Crisp as sassy New York girl Jesse. Joe Williamson (Grey’s Anatomy) plays the local pastor, Ben.

Jesse has questions. And when she follows her cheating ex-husband’s widowed mother (Marilu Henner, Taxi), Naomi, back home to help out, the small-town church and its pastor will never be the same.

Fun with Churching

Naomi and Jesse have a great relationship — even when cheating charmer Chaz (say that fast five times) blurts out that they’re divorced right after his dad’s funeral. So although it doesn’t make sense to anyone else, Jesse stays behind to help Naomi pack for a move to New York. Meanwhile, Chaz (Philip Boyd, The Mulligan) leaves hints at the local diner that they divorced because Jesse was unfaithful. You know, just to keep her from getting “too comfortable” in his hometown.

Chaz isn’t the only one who thinks Jesse’s presence is a bad idea, though. There’s also Pastor Ben. He has his own ties with the family and has known them long enough to know what kind of woman Chaz usually brings home. Since Ben wants Naomi to stay in the town where she’s loved, he quietly sabotages Jesse’s packing efforts.

Then Jesse brings Naomi to church, in an attempt to get her out of the house:

Jesse: I have an idea. Let’s go churching. No, nope, not a verb. I still think we should go. You’ve been asking me to go for years. Today’s the day.

Naomi: Maybe you should just go.

Jesse: No, I’m not going to church alone. They’d burn me at the stake.

So they “go churching,” and that’s when the fun really starts.

You see, Jesse brings her questions with her — about her ex, her choices, and the God she doesn’t know yet. And she’s not at all shy about sharing them.

I Will Not Let You Go …

At first, Ben and his small congregation are startled by Jesse’s town-hall approach. But Ben responds by welcoming her questions. And the next week, there are more people in the pews.

Still, not everyone is happy about Jesse and her questions. Church lady Doris (Kate Sanford) decides Jesse needs to go to a part of the church that’s more “appropriate” for her: the kids’ Sunday school.

You know what? They have questions too. They bring the whole list to Ben. So Doris doesn’t stop Jesse’s questioning (although Naomi does convince Jesse you can’t take change from the offering plate).

Maybe it’s okay to ask questions … even about God. To really engage with who He is and what happens in the Bible. To wrestle with it all, just like Jacob did with the angel, saying, “I will not let you go until you bless me” (Genesis 32:26).

Pastors Are People Too

The beauty of it all is that even as Jesse wrestles with questions in her own lively way, her presence blesses those around her. Because however it looks on the outside, Jesse is seeking and finding with her whole heart (Jeremiah 29:13). And God rewards her first stumbling steps.

For instance, when Jesse helps out the youth ministry, she mangles a parable, but she also helps a teen girl recognize her own value. Somewhere in the middle of it all, Jesse and Ben fall for each other.

Naomi is a part of that matchmaking. She conspires to have them meet up at the local dollar theatre, where they have this exchange at Doris’s ticket window:

Ben: Two, please.

Jesse: On, no. I got mine.

Ben: No, they’re $2.50 each. I’ll treat.

Jesse: Okay, just don’t think that I’m sleeping with you because you’re paying.

Ben: She’s kidding. We’re not…

Jesse: I don’t put out for $2.50, right Doris? But you spring for popcorn, I dunno. We’ll talk about it.

That’s as racy as the In-Lawfully Yours movie gets, but I like that the characters get to have personality. I have a friend I can picture saying something exactly like this.

Doris not-so-discreetly chaperones them through the whole movie, and that’s only part of their romantic troubles. There’s also Chaz’s suspicious attempts to win Jesse back, Ben’s past, the church’s outcry (thanks, Doris), and Jesse’s ongoing diner coffee challenge (hot sauce, anyone?).

Is It Worth Watching?

There are hurdles, laughs, authenticity, and lots of character growth. And Jesse isn’t the only one who needs to grow or get answers from God. Without giving too much away, I’ll say I loved the way Naomi responds to her son, Chaz, at the end, as well as the insightful correction Jesse offers Pastor Ben. I also loved their banter.

In-Lawfully Yours incorporates scripture, faith-seeking, and love without coming off as preachy or wooden. It’s comfortable with asking questions it doesn’t answer. Deep without taking itself too seriously. Even non-Christians could enjoy this one. Highly recommended for a lighthearted family movie or date night.

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