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'Into Temptation' puts a modern slant on a priestly story

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Patrick Coyle
Patrick Coyle's screenplay for "Into Temptation" grew out of his wondering what kind of priest his own father might have been. Coyle wrote, directed and even acted in his new film, which was shot around the city of Minneapolis.
MPR Photo / Euan Kerr

The city of Minneapolis is one of the stars of "Into Temptation," a new movie that gets its world premiere at the Edina Theater on Thursday. 

The film, which tells the story of a troubled Catholic priest who becomes obsessed with saving a mysterious young woman, was made on a shoestring but features some big-name stars.

Writer/director Patrick Coyle says the idea for "Into Temptation" came as a result of a surprising family revelation.

"I found out that my father was in the seminary studying to be a priest," Coyle says. "I didn't find this out until I was 19 or 20 years old and I was shocked. I couldn't put those pieces together."

Coyle's father's time in seminary came to an end when he met Coyle's mother, and they decided to marry. Years later, the story got Coyle thinking, particularly about what kind of priest his father would have made.

"And I sat down and started to write about it," Coyle says. "And then I wrote a scene where a priest encounters a kind of troubled young girl. So from that little kind of notion of what kind of Catholic priest my father would have made, became this screenplay." 

In the film a young woman comes to confess to Father John Bauerlein. He's a young priest in an impoverished Minneapolis parish. 

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was 19 years ago," she says.

"Welcome back," says the priest. 

"I'd like to confess a sin I haven't committed yet. Can I do that?" she asks.

"Well, that's never come up," replies the priest. "What's the sin?"

"I'm going to kill myself. On my birthday. And I'm Aries, Father, so I don't have a lot of time."

The woman reveals how she has been living as a high-priced prostitute, but she runs before Father John can dissuade her from committing suicide. He becomes obsessed with finding her. It launches him on a journey through the seedier parts of Minneapolis. 

Patrick Coyle sees Father John as a good but flawed man. 

"He's afflicted by a need to help people," Coyle says. "And in so doing possibly redeems himself because there is some core part of him that really suffers." 

To play the part of Father John Coyle enlisted "Law and Order" star Jeremy Sisto. He also really wanted to cast Kristin Chenoweth, who starred in the original Broadway production of "Wicked."

"And just out of the blue I picked up the phone and called her manager and I said 'Does your client have any desire to play a suicidal prostitute?'  And she pounded her desk and said 'We've been looking for that.'" 

It turned out Chenoweth was looking to break into new roles. 

Coyle also cast Brian Baumgartner, a regular on Twin Cities stages before becoming better known as "Kevin" on "The Office." He plays a fellow priest who urges Father John to be careful with secrets learned in the confessional.

"I do not want to hear you are assigned to a parish in Kabul for violating one of the only rules that does not need changing," he says in the film.

"Well, God forbid we bend a rule to save a life, Ralph," Father John replies.

"I mean it John, do not cross that line. That is my counsel." He pauses before continuing. "And when you do, just please be discrete." 

"Into Temptation" features many local actors as the people Father John meets on his search.

The film also makes great use of the city of Minneapolis. Patrick Coyle says the crew was very lucky to get permission to use Incarnation Catholic church in South Minneapolis. Some of the other sites were tougher to find for Coyle and his locations manager. 

"I needed a scene shot: Father John goes into a sex shop. And she said 'Are we going to build that?' And I said 'We don't really have the money to build a sex shop. We need someplace. I've heard they never ever let you into Sex World to shoot, but it would be some place like that.' And she came back the next day and said 'I got Sex World.' And I said, 'How did you do that?' And she said 'You don't want to know.'"

Coyle says she was joking.

"Into Temptation" will get its world premier Thursday at the Edina Theater, and then open the next day at the Lagoon in Minneapolis. 

After the Minneapolis run it will play at select theaters around the country before being issued on DVD in October.

Minneapolis-St. Paul Magazine Arts and Entertainment Editor Tad Simons wrote a glowing  review of "Into Temptation."

"This film is one of the most interesting explorations of faith and the nature of faith that I have seen in a long time," says Simons. 

Simons says Father John's faith helps him make a difference in many people's lives, even as he seems to be unable to find the young woman.

"Even though all visible evidence to him is that he  is failing at this, because his heart is in the right place and he is trying to do the right thing, he inadvertently does the right thing."   

Simons calls "Into Temptation" one of the most interesting and intelligent indie films to come out of Minneapolis in some time.